Billings Outlaws aim to 'play hard, play fast and play smart,' as opening day approaches
- JOHN LETASKY 406mtsports.com
BILLINGS — The goals are simple for this year’s Billings Outlaws indoor football team.
“Play hard, play fast and play smart,” said first-year coach Kerry Locklin on Friday of what he expects out of the Outlaws this year.
A few players have already begun reporting to the Magic City and the Outlaws have had some team events in Billings where players interacted and got to meet with community members, such as an event at a local restaurant Thursday night. The official reporting date for the team is Feb. 20.
Some of the early-arriving players are in Billings to start jobs with local businesses as a way to supplement their income.
“Some have jobs with local companies and have started working and have gotten here already,” said Outlaws team owner Steven Titus.
“The community is stepping up and guys are getting jobs in the community and it has come together as a nice collaboration,” added Outlaws CEO Lisa Rohrich.
Once the initial group of players fully arrives in Billings on Feb. 20, the team will then start an approximately two-week camp as it readies to travel to Omaha, Nebraska, to face the Beef in their season-opener March 10. The Beef finished as the league runner-up last season, while Billings — in its first year of competition — wound up with an 8-4 mark after a 26-14 setback to eventual league champion Salina (Kansas) in the Champions Indoor Football semifinals.
While the nature of indoor football is a revolving roster from year to year, Outlaws officials said there will be a handful of returnees on this year’s team.
Aiming for a ring
Regardless, this year's Outlaws have the same end goal as last year's squad did — to win a CIF championship.
“We are going to bring a championship to Billings this year,” stated Titus on Friday.
Rohrich believes the Outlaws’ coaching staff has collectively put in the work to bring a championship-caliber team to Billings. Six teams in the eight-team CIF will qualify for the playoffs, with the first two seeds receiving a bye in the first week, and the quarterfinals set to begin June 3. The semifinals will be played on June 10 with the championship set for June 17.
CIF league members are: the Billings Outlaws, the Sioux City (Iowa) Bandits, Omaha (Nebraska) Beef, the Salina (Kansas) Liberty, the Rapid City (South Dakota) Marshals, the Gillette (Wyoming) Mustangs, the Southwest Kansas (Dodge City) Storm and the Topeka (Kansas) Tropics.
“We have some amazing players coming in and goals set and we’re going for it,” said Rohrich. “The coaching staff has worked hard. Coach Locklin has done a lot of research on the players we’re bringing in here. We have a goal.”
Billings is set to tackle a 10-game regular season and will play an exhibition game in its final contest before the playoffs against the Fargo (North Dakota) Invaders May 25 at First Interstate Arena at MetraPark.
Billings’ first game at home will be in their second contest on March 20, when the Outlaws host the Topeka (Kansas) Tropics at 6:30 p.m. The Outlaws will then host the Rapid City (South Dakota) Marshals on March 27 at the Metra at 6:30 p.m.
The Outlaws will play their last regular-season league contest on May 20 at Rapid City.
“We are just excited,” said Rohrich of the upcoming season. “I can’t wait for the first game to see the fans and players and see how excited everyone is.”
The Outlaws are also close to reaching an agreement on a practice facility and team officials said they hope to wrap that process up in the near future with an announcement of where the team will be practicing possibly coming next week.
The Outlaws’ old practice facility — the Billings Sports Plex — wasn’t owned by the team and was sold in November to a family entertainment company located in Colorado.
Since the sale of the Sports Plex, team officials have been searching for a suitable place to practice.
“Night and day we’ve been working nonstop to find a practice facility,” said Titus.
New PAT rules
New to the CIF this year will be the option to go for a 3- or 4-point play after scoring a touchdown.
Teams can still try for the traditional PAT kick or two-point conversion. If going for three points, the ball is placed at the five-yard line and a successful run or pass will add three points to the scoreboard for the team that scores. To earn a four-point conversion, the football is placed at the 10-yard line and if the team on offense advances the ball past the goal line it is worth four points.
Locklin said the new PAT rules will make the game more interesting.
“It depends on what side of the ball you are on,” he said. “If you are on offense, yes, but if you are on defense it’s another down you have to stop them on. From a fan’s perspective, they like points.”
Rohrich said there will be other opportunities for the public to meet some of this year’s players before the season begins, such as at the Home Improvement Show March 3-5 at the Expo Center.
Titus begins the first full year of his ownership of the team after purchasing the team late in the 2022 campaign after the previous ownership group faced allegations of missed payroll, returned checks and unpaid bills.
So far, Titus said the community has responded positively to this year’s Outlaws as he said he is “pleased” with season-ticket sales, while adding that individual game tickets go on sale Feb. 13. Team officials also said local businesses have aided in the search for a new practice facility.
“I think we are thankful for our partnerships in Billings,” said Titus. “Everyone who comes back and supports us, we’ll make sure we do what we say we are going to do. There is one thing we can guarantee to our partners is we’ll keep our word.”
With first kickoff at Metra fast approaching on March 20, the Outlaws are pleased with where they are at as they pursue a league title.
“There is nothing like the feel of arena football,” said Rohrich.
Email Gazette Sports Editor John Letasky at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter at @GazSportsJohnL