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Extreme players energized by home crowd

Extreme players energized by home crowd

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BLOOMINGTON - Defensive lineman Chris Hummel called it "indescribable," and then - well, described it.

"An unbelievable feeling," the former Illinois Wesleyan star said.

Receiver Sam D'Alie found it "exciting" - even shocking.

"You get that electricity coming through your body," he said.

So it was Saturday for Hummel, D'Alie and their Bloomington Extreme teammates, who were greeted by the roar of 6,096 fans in the U.S. Cellular Coliseum's debut event.

While the end was not what the Extreme had in mind - a 51-28 United Indoor Football League loss to the Fort Wayne Freedom - the beginning and middle had the players buzzing.

"I think everybody here pretty much had a great time," said D'Alie, who caught four passes for 37 yards and ran five times for 20 yards. "I could see everyone was smiling and goofing around when they were doing the 'YMCA' song and the 'kiss' camera (on the scoreboard).

"I might be running down the middle of the field, but I still notice the little kids smiling at me when I do it."

The crowd came within 700 of capacity, providing an atmosphere far different than in the Extreme's opener last week at Peoria. About 1,000 to 1,500 fans showed up for that game at the Peoria Civic Center, with the Extreme rallying in the second half for a 44-40 win.

Saturday, Bloomington was dominated in the second half after trailing 23-20 at halftime.

D'Alie considered it motivation to "come out next week and give the fans a better show."

"This felt like home today," he said of the enthusiastic setting. "It was packed and they (the fans) were loud when we needed them to be loud and quiet when we needed them to be quiet. They did a great job."

The Extreme rewarded them in the first half, rebounding from a 14-0 first-quarter deficit to pull within three at the half.

The second half went downhill after an early turnover led to a Fort Wayne touchdown. Still, asked if the Extreme did enough to bring fans back for next Saturday's 7 p.m. home game against Rockford, Hummel said, "I absolutely hope so."

"This (Fort Wayne) is supposed to be the best team in the league. That's something everyone has to understand," Hummel said. "If that's the best team in the league, then we're pretty good because we held with them in the first half."

The effort had the decibel level up during the second quarter, when the Extreme scored 20 points, capped by a touchdown pass from Dusty Burk to Dwayne Smith 15 seconds before halftime.

Extreme fullback James Fuller was "definitely impressed," saying, "It did get loud at times. I had to ask Burk once or twice what the call was because I couldn't hear.

"I was happy with the way people came out and supported us. I'm just kind of disappointed in our play the second half. I feel we can compete with anybody. We just have to focus and practice hard and get ready to get things done next week."

No one got it done Saturday better than Fort Wayne running back Rocky Harvey. The former University of Illinois standout ran for 130 yards and three touchdowns on 22 carries.

While the crowd did its part to energize the home team, it also had an impact on the quick 5-foot-9, 220-pound Harvey.

"A lot of teams in the league don't get over like 2,000 fans," he said. "Fort Wayne, here and maybe Lexington (Ky.) get over 2,000 or 3,000 fans. It was nice to play in an arena with a lot of people booing us and things like that. It gets you charged. You want to crush some dreams and have some fun."

Silencing a crowd is nothing new for Harvey, the No. 5 career rusher in Illini history. In 1999, he scored two second-half touchdowns as Illinois rallied from a 27-7 deficit to win at Michigan, 35-29.

"That time, we quieted 110,000 people (at Michigan Stadium)," Harvey said. "I figured 6,000 - we could do that, too."

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