BILLINGS — With just over a month to go until their first preseason snap, things are lining up for the Billings Outlaws.
The first-year expansion franchise of Champions Indoor Football held a local tryout Saturday at the Sports Plex and approximately 20 players tested their skills in a bid to earn an invitation to training camp.
Outlaws coach Brian Schmidt and team co-owner Keith Russ both said they are happy with how things are progressing as the team readies for its preseason contest March 24 at 7:05 p.m. at First Interstate Arena at MetraPark against the Lone Star Pitbulls of Texas.
“We are ahead of schedule from where we were last year with Wyoming,” said Russ, who is also the co-owner of the Wyoming Mustangs of CIF. “We are a lot further ahead than we were with that extra experience from last year.”
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The Outlaws begin training camp March 8 and their first regular-season game will be April 2 at the Sioux City Bandits. Their home opener is April 10 at 7:05 p.m. against the Salina Liberty.
“We’re very much excited about it,” said Schmidt of camp beginning.
Russ said the community has been very supportive of the Outlaws.
The organization has already sold over 2,000 season tickets for games at the Metra. In addition, 56 box suites have been purchased. A box suite is adjacent to the wall lining the field, said Russ, and eight to 10 people can gather in the suite. Most box suites are owned by businesses. Those in the box suites receive free beer and snacks, said Russ.
For training camp, there will be 35 players vying for 25 spots on the opening-day roster. Players running through drills on Saturday were hoping to earn a spot to camp.
“Nobody has a spot, but we have some very good players,” said Schmidt, noting the roster is fluid. “We have some very good players all the way through. We have a roster of great talent.”
Schmidt did say that it takes more than talent to win football games and his aim is to assemble a roster of well-rounded players.
“The biggest thing that is important to us is our chemistry,” Schmidt said.
“We’re looking for guys that come here and pull the rope one direction and understand what it is to win a championship and understand what it is to be a professional.”
The CIF will consist of eight teams this year, said Russ. Those eight teams are the Outlaws, Wyoming (Gillette) Mustangs, Rapid City (South Dakota) Marshals, Omaha (Nebraska) Beef, Salina (Kansas) Liberty, Southwest Kansas (Dodge City) Storm, Topeka (Kansas) Tropics, and Sioux City (Iowa) Bandits. Pick Six Entertainment, co-owned by Russ and Tel Koan, owns the Outlaws, Mustangs and Marshals.
Russ said the eight teams will form a single division this year and the top six squads will make the playoffs. The teams with the two best records will receive a first-round bye.
Next year, the league will expand to 14 teams, said Russ.
For Billings, the goal is to win a championship.
“We are building a championship team here,” said Russ. “Coach Schmidt has brought in some good players. They are hungry. We are not building for future years; we are building for this year and to continue to represent the city of Billings with a championship.”
“I came here to win a championship,” Schmidt said. “That’s what I’ve done in the past. I’ve won two championships. I didn’t come here to be mediocre. I came to be the best we can be.”
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