Canadian Football League

Friday, May 27, 2005

Bishop to miss Canadian Football League season as Grand Rapids Press reports

The Grand Rapids Rampage ended the 2005 Arena Football League season with back-to-back victories -- both against playoff teams -- and won three of their last four games.
Grand Rapids finished with four wins, which typically doesn't cause much excitement, but when you're coming off a one-win season like the Rampage had in 2004, with a team that wasn't competitive more than a handful of times, there's reason to be optimistic.
This has to go down as a successful season for first-year Rampage coach Sparky McEwen, who went through 70 players and fired two coaches to get to this point.

McEwen was the team's offensive and defensive coordinator, guiding an offense that was two touchdowns better than last season.
The offense averaged 47.6 points per game. The defense, which was last in the 17-team league in points allowed after the first eight games (64.3 points), finished last, giving up an average of 58.2, but there was improvement in the last eight games, when the defense allowed 52.3 points per game.
Mid-term grades were poor across the board for the Rampage for one obvious reason -- they had one win. Winning three of their final eight games improves their overall grade from a D to a D+, but the second half of the season, the Rampage put in C- work.
"This one (last week's 71-65 season finale win over the Los Angeles Avengers) was for our fans, who stuck with us through thick and thin," McEwen said. "We started slow and they could had stopped supporting us. Now they have something to be proud of going into free agency.
"We're going to do everything we can to continue to upgrade this football team."
The Rampage set a number of individual, team and AFL records starting with quarterback Michael Bishop, who rushed for 36 yards last Saturday, becoming the AFL single-season rushing leader with 459 yards.
As a team, Grand Rapids rushed for 766 yards, another AFL and franchise record averaging 4.7 yards per carry (an AFL record).
Rampage defensive specialist Damon Mason finished with 133 tackles (an AFL and franchise record) and had more pass break-ups (34) than any other player.
Mason and Bishop aren't under contract with the Rampage for 2006, a situation McEwen hopes to change by June 30. After that date, no team can re-sign players on their roster. If they haven't signed by June 30, McEwen will have to wait until Sept. 1 before he can negotiate with his current players.
There was no player in the AFL more exciting than Bishop, who has a strong arm and is a powerful runner. He is the most athletic player at his position.
Bishop, who has decided not to play in the Canadian Football League this season, still has a lot to learn to make the Rampage a playoff contender, but for now he's focusing on the AFL.
"I want to make Grand Rapids my AFL home," said Bishop. "I want to sign here and I'm going to make sure we get a contract done as soon as possible because I don't want to wait around."
If the Rampage are to return to being a playoff team and contending for the Central Division title, they will do so by re-signing key players and winning the free agent sweepstakes.
Hiring coaching help
McEwen will hire a defensive coordinator. He won't wear both hats again. He's already hard at work putting together contracts for players like Bishop, Mason, fullback/linebackers Travis McDonald and Travis Reece, and he's compiling a list of free agents throughout the league.
Attracting quality free agent linemen to Grand Rapids is another priority.
There will be pressure on the Rampage to take the excitement they created at the end of this season and produce at the beginning of next season.
It's a challenge McEwen looks forward to.
THE RAMPAGE HAD a slight increase in attendance for the 2005 season. In eight home games, the Rampage sold 174 more tickets than the previous season. In 2004, 59,753 fans attended games at Van Andel Arena, compared to 59,927 in 2005. "Given our 2004 season and the fact we lost 500 season-ticket holders for the 2005 season, to have attendance stable for this season is a nice consolation," said Bob Sack, DP Fox senior vice president of sales and marketing. DP Fox owns the Rampage franchise.
RAMPAGE KICKER PETER MARTINEZ was named to the AFL's All-Rookie Team on Tuesday. He's the seventh player in Grand Rapid's eight-year history to receive the honor. The former Western Kentucky standout also is the third Rampage kicker to be named to the squad. The other two were Remy Hamilton and Brian Gowins. Martinez finished fifth among kickers in scoring with 139 points. He made the second-most field goals (18) and had the most attempts (44), with his long for the season coming from 54-yards. Martinez connected on 85 of 95 point-after kicks.


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