CEDAR RAPIDS It may not have said so on the scoreboard, but the Cedar Rapids Titans had to consider Thursday night a winning debut.
The Titans, playing their first-ever Indoor Football League game, dropped a 25-12 decision to the Omaha Beef at the Cedar Rapids Ice Arena before a crowd estimated at more than 3,000 by Titans' Owner and General Manager Chris Kokalis.
"I'd have to say tonight exceeded my expectations," Kokalis said. "This is what it is about. You look at this, over 3,000 people for an exhibition game. It is simply tremendous."
The game was tied 6-6 at halftime. After the break, Omaha built a 15-6 lead, only to see the Titans cut the deficit to 15-12 on a short scoring pass from Kenneth Black Jr. to Nick Campbell early in the fourth quarter.
But on the ensuing kickoff, Omaha's Mitchell Bell reached over his head to haul in the kick, then raced nearly untouched 57 yards for the score. The Beef added a pair of late field goals for the final margin.
There were some unusual happenings in the game. The low ceiling at the ice arena made it difficult on kickers from both teams. Two kicks glanced off the American flag at one end of the arena while another went off a vent along the ceiling and fell short of the crossbar.
"That's something we will have to adjust to," Kokalis admitted. "As the year goes along, I think that could end up being a big advantage for us having other kickers coming in."
The fans were treated to several promotions and when a ball sailed into the stands, it got to stay with the lucky fan who grabbed it.
Most seemed to enjoy the atmosphere.
"It's amazing, I think Cedar Rapids really needs this," said Michelle Meier of Cedar Rapids, who is a season ticket holder. "It's kinda like a (Cedar Rapids) RoughRiders (hockey) game. The players are right in your face. This was just great."
Jake Willett of Cedar Rapids thought it was "a good family environment."
He added that the football wasn't bad either.
"For an exhibition game, I think the play has been pretty good," Willett said. "I do think it has been hard for the kickers with everything hanging so low."
Meier said she can't wait to return for the regular season opener on March 3 against Lehigh Valley.
"I'm excited to see how many people will come out for a regular-season game," she said. "It's been great tonight and I am really excited that the Titans are here in Cedar Rapids."