By Rich Myhre Herald Writer
EVERETT — Everett-area football fans got their first look at the city’s new team on Thursday night and there was some good news.
It should get better.
One week after getting thumped 70-44 in a season-opening road loss to the Tri-Cities Fever, the Everett Raptors of the Indoor Football League suffered a 48-27 loss to the Allen Wranglers in their home debut at Comcast Arena.
Allen, a team from the Dallas area, built a 48-13 margin through the first 31/2 quarters, though Everett tacked on two late touchdowns for the final margin.
“It’s going to get better,” vowed Raptors head coach Sean Ponder. “We’re going to get things rolling, I’m not worried about that.”
Everett was handicapped by the absence of starting quarterback Charles McCullum, who suffered a serious ankle injury in the Tri-Cities game. McCullum had surgery on Thursday and is expected to miss most and perhaps all of the remaining season.
“Charles is a great quarterback,” Ponder said. “He’s one of the elite guys in the league. … Any time you lose an All-Star quarterback, it’s tough.”
Backup QB Ryan Ratekin threw four touchdown passes, but also threw three interceptions and several times missed open receivers.
“You have to give Ryan credit,” Ponder said. “He stepped in and did as good as he could do, and that’s all you can ask. … But I’m sure he’ll tell you he didn’t play his best game.”
Everett’s offensive star was wide receiver Lonnie Sanders, who had touchdown receptions for 7, 5 and 23 yards, all in the second half. Two of his TD catches came in the game’s final 90 seconds, and he also had a two-point PAT reception.
“We came out on fire, but … we had a lot of jitters with this being the first time to have a team in Everett,” Sanders said. “It was a disappointing loss for us … but the season has 14 weeks and we’ve still got a good shot of making it to where we want to be.
“It was a fun game,” he added. “I wish the score would’ve been different, but we made a lot of mistakes. But my whole thing is that I don’t give up. I was trying to bring it closer than it was (with the late TDs).”
Everett’s first touchdown came five minutes before halftime on a 13-yard scoring pass from Ratekin to wide receiver Andre Piper-Jordan. Piper-Jordan, a former basketball and baseball player at Everett Community College, made a leaping catch near the right boards, spun away from a defender and into the end zone.
Piper-Jordan’s TD trimmed Allen’s early 13-0 lead to 13-6, but the Wranglers scored another touchdown in the final seconds of the first half for a 20-6 margin at the break.
The Wranglers added another touchdown in the third period and two more in the fourth to break the game open.
One of the game’s biggest hits came late in the first half and cost Everett one of its top defensive backs. Allen quarterback Casey Printers scrambled around right end and collided with Everett DB Cashmin Thomas in the secondary. Printers went head over heels, but got to his feet. Thomas, though, had to be helped off the field with an apparent concussion after taking a knee to the helmet.
The Raptors also lost offensive lineman Maurice Robinson (knee), defensive lineman Michael Felemi (groin), Piper-Jordan (shoulder) and offensive lineman John Mobley (hand) to injuries during the game.
“The injury bug is biting us,” Ponder said. “Obviously we have to go out and try to find some more players because I’ve got a lot of them hurt.”
Everett’s next game is a road contest in Casper, Wyo., on March 11, and Ponder is hopeful for a better showing.
“There’s a lot of things we need to get better at, there’s no doubt about it,” he said. “We have to clear up the mistakes and execute.”