Billings Outlaws ready to open the season.
By: JOHN LETASKY 406mtsports.com & Billings Gazette
BILLINGS — For Kerry Locklin, Friday will mark a first in his long football career.
It will be his debut as a head coach when the visiting Billings Outlaws meet the Omaha (Nebraska) Beef at 6 p.m. in a Champions Indoor Football league game.
The game is the season opener for both teams.
Locklin, who was hired as the Outlaws coach in September, has coached at the NFL, CFL, college and indoor levels. However, until being hired in the offseason to lead the Outlaws, the former NFL and USFL player had never been a head coach at the pro, college or semi-pro level.
Locklin, who was previously the Outlaws’ general manager, said he hasn’t changed a whole lot about his coaching style.
“What I’ve learned over the years is if you coach an individual unit or positions, offensive or defensive units, you do your teams the same way and get the best results,” Locklin said. “If you have guys being productive and going to the next level and stuff and winning, that tells you what you need to do.”
Billings is now finished with training camp and has a 25-player roster, of which 21 players will be active on Friday. The Outlaws were 8-4 last year and advanced to the CIF semifinals.
The Beef did win an exhibition game, 71-0, over the Omaha Stockman on March 4.
“They have a really good team with a lot of good athletes,” said Locklin of the Beef. “They are a balanced team. They do a lot of good on offense and defense. We have to be ready to play for 60 minutes.”
The Outlaws left Billings at midnight Wednesday night and arrived in Omaha around 5 p.m. Thursday. Locklin said the roads were snow-covered for much of the trip.
Those kinds of circumstances are nothing new for many of the Outlaws players, however, and they’ll be ready to play vs. the Beef.
“The good thing about it is most of them have been through it before, whether it be the DII or NAIA or some of the smaller levels,” Locklin said. “For the most part, more of our kids have rode a bus than flew to the games.”
The Outlaws first home game is March 20 against Topeka (Kansas) at 6:30 p.m. at First Interstate Arena at MetraPark.
However, Billings is focused on the task at hand this week and hopes to be 1-0 entering its first game at home.
And, there is an excitement to be competing against another team instead of practicing.
“It’s always exciting when you start the season and have a chance to go out there and do something,” said Locklin.
“We’ll have some game-day jitters and mistakes. We just have to fight through the storm and level it out.”