Billings win streak continues, dominate Rapid City.
BILLINGS — With a less-than-100% receiving corps, the Billings Outlaws were forced to adapt against the Rapid City (South Dakota) Marshals at First Interstate Arena at MetraPark.
An opening-kickoff touchdown and five rushing scores later for Billings en route to a win Monday, consider that challenge to be successfully completed — with emphasis.
Running back Josh Batiste scampered for three total touchdowns (two rushing, one receiving) on 12 carries for 54 rushing yards as the Outlaws made it two consecutive wins with a 49-18 rout over the Marshals, picking up a comfortable victory ahead of a Saturday showdown at the Champions Indoor Football league's leading team, the Gillette (Wyoming) Mustangs.
Similar to its win against the Topeka (Kansas) Tropics the prior Monday night when it held the visitors to just six second-half points, Billings (2-1 overall) had a productive stretch on defense against Rapid City (0-3) that helped the Outlaws' offense to break open the game and build a big lead, doing so on this occasion by way of just six points allowed in the first three quarters.
Billings coach Kerry Locklin would've preferred not to see his team give up two fourth-quarter touchdowns and keep the Marshals' output at six points, but all in all, he was pleased with what he and the 1,477 scanned ticket-holders at Metra saw Monday night.
"It felt good to get off to a good start," Locklin said. "We were doing some good things on offense and defense, then we started hurting ourselves ... but other than that, we played pretty sound on both sides of the ball."
Reigning CIF Offensive Player of the Week and Outlaws quarterback Vincent Espinoza had to work with a group of wideouts that Locklin said were "banged up" entering the game, though the coach didn't list specifics about names or injury severities when asked postgame.
It proved to be no issue for Billings, which rocketed to the lead on the game's opening play and coasted from there, largely on scores when the ball wasn't in the air from a pass.
To'mas Newman gave the Outlaws the immediate spark by returning the opening kickoff 45 yards to paydirt, and though the Marshals responded with a scoring drive, 36 unanswered points from that point from Billings ensured that Rapid City never got a sniff of the lead again.
"It's really nice, it's how we planned it," Batiste said. "We did what we were supposed to do offensively and defensively. (The defense) set us up with the good field position for us to be successful. We just executed, so it feels great."
With the Outlaws' defense being paced by 10 tackles, a sack and a forced fumble from linebacker D'Nerius Antoine, Rapid City struggled to get much of anything going for much of the second and third quarters, being stopped on fourth down five times in all as the pair of quarterbacks it played — Kyle Michel and Jauhem Byrd — combined for 9-for-27 passing with 103 yards, two touchdowns and an interception.
Antoine, a second-year Outlaw that played college ball at Southern Miss, gave credit to the team's pass rush as a whole for making the Marshals' passing game disjointed, staying humble despite his stellar individual performance and ability all night to force Rapid City signal-callers out of the pocket.
"My job is to push the quarterback out ... I just hope my (defensive) ends can be there," Antoine said. "If they do, they can get sacks. I pride myself on making them better, so if I do my job and they do their job, they're going to get the stats and I'm just here."
After a pair of victories to get over .500 following a season-opening defeat at the Omaha Beef, the Outlaws will be tested on a short week in Wyoming against the Mustangs — the team which Locklin spent most of last season on staff as an assistant.
Gillette is the CIF's only remaining unbeaten team, having taken down the Sioux City (Iowa) Bandits by a 28-18 margin this past Saturday to improve to 3-0 on the year. But players like Antoine see an opportunity to get ahead on the horizon, meanwhile, citing the competitiveness of the top squads of the CIF as five teams in the league already have at least two wins through just three weeks of play.
A win by Billings against its rival across the state's southern border would perhaps signify something bigger — that the Outlaws are not aiming to be near the top, but on top, at season's end.
"At the end of the day, the league is really open," Antoine said. "Anybody can beat anybody on any given Saturday, Sunday, Monday, whatever day we play. ... We go in there and get the job done, we've got a chance to be number one or number two (in the league). So it's big on us, doing our job, studying our keys and doing everything to do to be victorious in the end."