River Kings Travel to Steamwheelers

by Dakota Zientek

This Friday the Cedar Rapids River Kings (1-9) will travel to the Quad City Steamwheelers (3-7) for a week 13 contest. Kickoff is set for 7:05 PM from the Taxslayer Center in Rock Island. Cedar Rapids is coming off a bye in week 12, while the Steamwheelers dropped a 59-56 game to Iowa on the last play of regulation.

Cedar Rapids quarterback Ben Wilkerson found himself as the starter again, but he was only able to complete 40% of his attempts (8-20) for 93 yards, one touchdown, and had three interceptions.

On the ground, Wilkerson found the end zone once on 13 rushes for 19 yards. Nate Chavious turned his seven rushes into 35 yards, but couldn’t find the end zone. The Barnstormers were able to find a solution for Chavious and The River Kings are hoping to have Chavious be a man contributor on offense this week.

With Wilkerson’s eight completions, Jordan Smith was the recipient of half of those. He reeled in four for 57 yards and the River Kings’ lone passing touchdown. Marquel Wade caught three for 20 and Ezell Ruffin caught a single ball for 16 yards. Wilkerson and the receiving core for the River Kings will need to be on the same page if they want to find success against the Steamwheelers.

On defense, Jeff Branch was a menace. He had five solo tackles, an assisted tackle, and a forced fumble. Nick Brassell, a defender that has been positively praised this whole season, was able to take down four Barnstormers on his own. With the loss of Tuff Johnson, the River Kings are going to rely on these two, along with other key parts of the defense, to find success this week.

On the River Kings’ menu this week is the Quad City Steamwheelers. At quarterback, E.J. Hilliard threw for an 80% completion percentage (21-26) for 285 yards, four touchdowns, and a goose egg in the interception column.

On the ground Hilliard rushed 11 times for 50 yards and two scores. Zavier Steward rushed six times for 33 yards and a touchdown while Keyvan Rudd rushed once for five yards and a touchdown.

In the hands department, Quiton Pedroza reeled in five balls for 98 yards and two touchdowns. Carlos Wiggins caught four for 48 and a touchdown, and Zavier Steward reeled in a team-high seven balls for 44 yards and a touchdown. Lastly, Keyvan Rudd was able to turn four catches into 86 yards and no scores.

Defensively, the Steamwheelers forced four fumbles, which can be detrimental to a team’s success, so the River Kings will have to make sure to keep all three hands on the ball.

Although the River Kings have not had many winning performances lately, those that have been watching the progression of the players can see that progress is being made. The River Kings will have to start the game the way they have been finishing games off. Cedar Rapids gave up 27 points in the first half (all in the first quarter), but only gave up 16 in the second half. If they start the game the way they've been finishing them, the River Kings could see a “W” in this week’s game against the Steamwheelers.