ROSEMONT, Ill. -- While the Chicago Rush celebrated an Arena League playoff berth, the Utah Blaze licked their wounds and wondered who will play quarterback for them next week.
Newly acquired QB J.J Raternik and fullback Johnie Kirton led a balanced Chicago offensive attack as the Rush defeated the Utah Blaze 52-35 Friday to secure the team's 11th win of the season as well as a playoff spot.
Utah (7-8) was hoping for a win to strengthen their bid for a playoff bid. But after starting QB Tommy Grady went down and backup Jordan Rasmussen did as well, the Blaze managed just a single second-half TD.
Raternik, who was acquired after starting QB Russ Michna was placed on IR, was resilient in the pocket throughout the game going 19-of-33 and throwing four touchdowns for 281 yards with no turnovers.
The game was a back and forth battle in the opening period as both offenses were exchanging touchdowns on every drive. Blaze WR Aaron Lesue scored two touchdowns in the first quarter. Lesue finished the game with 10 catches for 126 yards and three touchdowns.
Utah was able to tie the game at 28-28 but it came at a price as Grady went down with an injury with 1:47 left in the 2nd quarter, which forced back-up Rasmussen to enter the game.
The absence of Grady allowed the Rush defense to settle in and come up big against one of the highest scoring offenses in the league. Defensive backs Perry Kyles and Jason Simpson came up with two critical interceptions in the second half to allow Chicago to pull away and secure a victory.
The Blaze play at Spokane next Friday.