Red Dogs to close out season in S.F. tonight

06/29/02 Rapid City Journal

The Rapid City Red Dogs are in unfamiliar territory.

For the last two years, Rapid City has been preparing itself for postseason play as the regular season wound down. This year, the playoffs are out of reach and the Red Dogs find themselves playing out the season with no playoff game on the horizon.

Still there's pride at stake and that's what Rapid City will put on the line tonight when the Red Dogs (6-7 overall, 2-6 Pacific West) kick off against the Sioux Falls Storm (7-6, 4-3) at 6:05 p.m. at the Sioux Falls Arena.

"It's a new thing we have to deal with," said Dan Maciejczak, who wraps up his first season as a head coach tonight, "but the guys have a lot of pride.

"I told them, 'This game is on state-wide TV (PAX) and I don't want to go down and get my face kicked in and have to live with that all off-season, so let's finish on a high note.'"

Maciejczak's word put a new spin on the "Win one for the Gipper" theme, but he's hoping they ring true to his players. After all, there is a little revenge involved, too. A little less than a year ago, the Storm knocked the then 13-1 Red Dogs out of the playoffs with a first-round upset. Maciejczak hasn't forgotten that game.

"I want to win this game because Sioux Falls ruined a lot of stuff for us last year," he said. "Hopefully we can jump out and get into the lead and get some points on the board."

Sioux Falls posted a 52-40 win when the two teams met on March 30 at the Rushmore Plaza Civic Center.

The game turned into a bit of a debacle for the Red Dogs as the Storm forced a couple turnovers - one a questionable fumble by quarterback Jason Murdock - and got a special teams touchdown. Rapid City was in disarray that day, especially after receiver Ryan Speed went down with a knee injury early on.

Now Sioux Falls appears to be the struggling team.

The Storm got off to a 4-0 start, but for the second straight year, they've struggled more and more as the season has gone on. Sioux Falls has dropped four of its last five games, and six of their last nine since the 4-0 start.

"It seems like they bring a lot of guys back, but they don't get any better as the season goes on," said Maciejczak. "In this league, you've got to keep getting better or else it's going to end up biting you in the end."

The Storm come into tonight's game averaging 238.8 yards and 42.7 points a game offensively. Sioux Falls' defense, which got off to a tremendous start allowing only 23.5 points a game, now allows an average 223.3 yards and 38.1 points a game. In their last four losses, opponents have scored 57.0 points a game.

Rapid City is scoring 49.2 points a game and allowing 44.2, and Murdock, who is nursing a sore hamstring, has been stellar since joining the Red Dogs in Week 4. He's completed 135 of 223 pass attempts for 1,460 yards and 40 touchdowns, with only four interceptions.

Ryan Speed and Brian Mills, who missed Rapid City's game against Billings two weeks ago, will suit up this week, giving Maciejczak his three top receivers in uniform. Mills has 52 catches for 646 yards and 16 TDs, Casey Veenhof has 41 receptions for 457 yards and 11 scores and Speed has 34 catches for 411 yards and 12 TDs.

Leading rusher Tom Skoog will not play this week due to a broken wrist.

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