outlaws claim regular season crown, clinch 1 seed, defeat albany

Story and Photo from: 406MtSports (John Letasky)

BILLINGS — Call it Metra magic. 

A crazy ending, with the Billings Outlaws winning on a walk-off deuce by kicker Bailey Giffen on a kickoff with four seconds left, gave the home team an improbable Arena Football League victory on Saturday night at First Interstate Arena at MetraPark. 

And with the victory, the Outlaws are going to be hosting an Arena Football League semifinal home game.

In a matchup pitting the No. 1 Albany Firebirds against the No. 2 Billings Outlaws at First Interstate Arena at MetraPark Saturday, the home team rallied late — scoring 12 points in the final nine seconds — for a 36-35 victory.

With the win, the Outlaws (7-1) earned the right to host a semifinal on Friday, July 12 at 6 p.m. at the Metra. The Firebirds, who like the Outlaws had clinched a spot in the five-team playoff field, fell to 7-2 with their second-straight loss.

The Firebirds led 9-8 after one quarter of play and 15-11 at intermission. The Firebirds had a 22-18 lead after three quarters.

And with nine seconds left, things looked bleak for Billings.

However, that's when the Metra magic kicked in.

Trailing 35-24, wide receiver Duane Brown scored on a 5-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Isaac Harker and the Outlaws decided to go for a four-point conversion play.

"We got down there and they had a couple defensive holding penalties and we ran a smash route to Brown," said Billings Outlaws coach Cedric Walker of the touchdown. 

Walker explained that after a TD, a team can go for the one-point conversion kick, or a 2-, 3-, or 4-point conversion. To go for two points, the ball is placed at the two-yard line and if a team goes for three points, the ball is placed at the 5-yard line. On a four-point attempt, the ball is placed at the 10-yard-line.

On the four-point attempt, Harker found Derrick Harvey Jr. for the four-point conversion Walker said. That score brought the Outlaws within one point, 35-34.

"We had a play setup and coach (Sherdrick) Bonner called timeout and Isaac made a heck of a throw and put it where Harvey could make the catch," said Walker. 

Then, as Walker said "that's the rumor" when asked if Giffen made the kick of the year, the kicker who leads the league in deuces — a two-point play on a kickoff that goes through the uprights — sent the ball "right down the middle" and through the uprights to give Billings the win.

"It was good," said Walker of the improbable comeback victory. "The guys kept fighting. We knew it would be for a playoff game. ... We just kept on fighting."

"To score 12 points in nine seconds, who would have thunk it?"

Overall, 1,786 fans were at the Metra to cheer the Outlaws on in their final regular-season home game.

Billings will play its final game of the regular season at the Salina Liberty (6-2), who have also clinched a spot in the playoffs, on Saturday, June 29.

Walker said the goal for the Outlaws entering the Salina game is to go 1-0 as it has been all season.

"Coach Heron (O'Neal) will have those guys ready to play," said Walker. "We watch the film and make adjustments and changes and get on the bus Thursday night and try to go 1-0. That's it."