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Locomotives’ Fassel to go with backup QB against Colonials

Locomotives coach Jim Fassel got a queasy feeling when he saw Tim Rattay go down in a heap during the fourth quarter at Sacramento on Friday.

It’s the kind of feeling a coach gets when he loses one of his best players.

The Locos won, 26-3, but lost their starting quarterback for the season with a ruptured right Achilles tendon. Rattay’s injury left Fassel with a tough decision as the Locos (3-1) try to maintain momentum and pursue a spot in the second United Football League championship game Nov. 27 in Omaha, Neb.

Fassel’s choice: promote backup Drew Willy, who hasn’t seen the field all season, or reach out for an experienced hand to guide the Locos the rest of the way. After all, J.P. Losman is without a team after leading Las Vegas to the 2009 UFL title.

Fassel will play the hand he was dealt, naming Willy to start against the Hartford Colonials (1-3) at Sam Boyd Stadium at 12:30 p.m. Saturday.

Willy, who turns 24 on Nov. 13, played in college at Buffalo and was the Indianapolis Colts’ third-string quarterback last season.

“I’ve been very impressed with Drew,” Fassel said. “He’s grown a lot since training camp and he has showed me, week in and week out, that he can do the job.”

Willy said he’s ready to prove himself worthy of Fassel’s confidence.

“There’s always pressure when you’re a quarterback,” Willy said. “But you have to go out and play. I believe in the offense. We’ve got a good group and I’ve been learning from Tim every week.

“It’s a shame what happened to him, but it’s an opportunity to go out there and play.”

Fassel said he briefly considered Losman, but “never had any conversations” with the veteran or his agent. “We’re going to go with what we have,” he said.

Chase Clement will be Willy’s backup, and Fassel brought back Russ Michna to be the third-stringer. He was cut in training camp and knows the Locos’ system.

Fassel said he won’t be simplifying the playbook to ease Willy’s transition.

“We may select a few things that suit his abilities more, but we’re not going to scale back,” Fassel said. “He knows everything. He’s got a strong arm. I don’t need him to carry the team on his back. He just has to function, move the team and make the plays when he needs to.”

Willy said he’s determined to make sure there’s no dropoff in the Locos’ offense with him in control.

“You have to be patient, but you don’t want to be overly cautious,” he said. “It’s a fine line you’re walking. But if you’re prepared and you execute the game plan, you can be successful. I’ve been watching a lot of film and I’m comfortable with the starters. I’ll be ready.”

■ NOTES — The Locos lost defensive tackle Ross Kolodziej to a sprained left foot against Sacramento. He’ll be out for four weeks and Ryan Boschetti will move into Kolodziej’s right tackle spot.

Contact reporter Steve Carp at scarp@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2913.

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