AFL Season begins, a new era starts

Billings Gazette, 406MtSports By: John Letasky

A new era in Billings Outlaws indoor football officially begins on Saturday.

The Outlaws, in their third year as a franchise after the team debuted in 2022 as member of the Champions Indoor Football league, will officially begin their first-year in the newly reformed Arena Football League on Saturday night at First Interstate Arena at MetraPark.

Billings will entertain the Wichita (Kansas) Regulators at 6 p.m. as both teams play their first game of the season. The Outlaws did score a 68-0 non-league exhibition victory over the Denver Sharks on April 18 at the Metra.

The Salina (Kansas) Liberty defeated Wichita, 38-28, on April 8 in a preseason exhibition. The Southwest Kansas Storm and the Regulators also played an exhibition on April 20. The score was not kept during the Storm vs. Regulators scrimmage. 

First-year Outlaws coach Cedric Walker said that at this point in the year not much is known about Wichita, but his squad is confident as it prepares for the Regulators.

“We are both 0-0 and there is not too much film out there,” Walker said of the matchup. “How can we prepare as a coaching staff and have our team ready to go. They’ll have their team ready to go. So we have to make sure we’re ready.”

Walker said that his message to the team was simple as the Outlaws aim to start the season 1-0.

“Attention to detail and focus on us,” said Walker of what he has been stressing to the players. “If we do what we are supposed to do, we are a good team. We can’t worry about anything outside the building.

“We’ll look at the first drive and see how Wichita comes about us. If we do what we are supposed to do, we’ll be OK.”

Walker did say that the Outlaws have added former Montana Western defensive lineman Tanner Harrell of Shepherd. In 2023, Harrell was a Frontier Conference first-team defense honoree. Walker said Harrell is a 6-foot-2, 310-pound offensive and defensive lineman. Harrell was selected for the 2018 Montana East-West Shrine Game at defensive end.

Walker noted the Outlaws signed Harrell on April 20 after the team’s exhibition game on April 18. According to Walker, Harrell was a fan of the original version of the Billings Outlaws team that folded in 2010 after winning league titles in 2006, 2009 and 2010.

“We signed him and he’s been a beast in practice,” said Walker. “He tells the guys about the tradition of the Outlaws. He used to go to the games.”

Walker said that Billings fans who missed the exhibition should like the style of play of the AFL. He feels the rebound nets in both end zones help bring a unique brand of football to the spectators. According to the AFL rule book, the “net is meant for the football to ricochet back into play on all free kicks. Teams may also use the rebound nets for passes.”

“It will be exciting,” said Walker. “The fans in Billings will love the game. They got a little in the exhibition game. It wasn’t the full extent with the offense and defense.”