J.J. Raterink’s homecoming didn’t start exactly as planned Saturday night at the i wireless Center.
The first pass the Iowa Barnstormers quarterback attempted was intercepted, spoiling his return to the turf where he broke records while playing for the Quad-City Steamwheelers.
A jarring hit by Lindsey Witten forced the pick, which Chicago’s Alex Daniels returned for a score, and the Rush were on their way to a
43-22 AFL preseason win over the Barnstormers before Chicago quarterback Russ Michna had taken his first snap of the game.
“It feels good to be back here. It feels like home,” Raterink said. “It’s a good way to start the year, coming back to a place I have a lot of good memories of. It wasn’t the way I wanted to start the game, though.”
The exhibition marked the return to the Quad-Cities of two record-setting Steamwheelers from their time in af2, Raterink and Jesse Schmidt.
The franchise’s career record holders for passing and receiving yards received a warm reception during pregame introductions before connecting for the only touchdown Iowa managed in the first half.
Raterink, who worked only one series into the second quarter, hit Schmidt with a 25-yard touchdown strike with 12 minutes, 19 seconds remaining in the first quarter to pull Iowa within a 7-6 score.
Five field goals by Chicago’s Mike Salerno allowed the the Rush to run off 22 unanswered points before the Barnstormers cut into a lead.
“The game didn’t turn out the way we wanted, but it felt like old times hooking up again with J.J.,” Schmidt said. “This is the first time in a couple of years we’ve been on the same team, and this might be the last go-round for me, so it’s something I wanted to do and I’m glad it’s working out.”
Things worked out as well Saturday for former Iowa receiver Derrell Johnson-Koulianos and for former Davenport West prep J.J. Payne.
Johnson-Koulianos received a rousing ovation during pregame introductions before making his professional debut.
Playing for the first time since being suspended prior to Iowa’s appearance in the 2010 Insight Bowl, the Hawkeyes’ former career receiving leader took the field in the second quarter for the Barnstormers but recorded all three of his receptions in the second half.
His catches included an 11-yard touchdown grab in the fourth quarter that provided Iowa with its final points.
“It felt good to be out on a field again, making plays, competing,” said Johnson-Koulianos, whose receptiongs covered 29 yards. “I felt like I could have had a couple more catches. I was open all night, but I’m excited to be back out there finally. It’s a start for me.”
Payne scored a pair of second-half touchdowns for Chicago, catching a 10-yard touchdown pass in the third quarter and rushing four yards for a score in the fourth.
One week into training camp, starters for both teams saw only limited action.
Raterink completed 5-of-9 passes for 50 yards, while Schmidt caught three balls for a team-high 42 yards for the Barnstormers.
“We’re seven practices in, so we’ve got a lot of work to do, but we’ve got a lot of young guys on this team are going to be a lot of fun to watch over the course of the season,” Schmidt said.
Michna, a former Western Illinois quarterback, completed 7-of-11 passes for the Rush covering 52 yards, while Payne had 17 yards on six carries and grabbed three passes for 16 yards.