BILLINGS — Flag football anyone?
The Billings Outlaws were making the most out of a bad situation Thursday.
Scheduled to play the Fargo (North Dakota) Invaders Thursday at First Interstate Arena at MetraPark in an exhibition tune-up in their last contest before the Champions Indoor Football playoffs, the Outlaws found out Tuesday that the Invaders were pulling out of the contest.
“The Fargo Invaders have played Gillette (Wyoming) and Rapid City (South Dakota) and they fielded a competitive team and we had no issues that they were not going to show up,” explained Outlaws owner Steven Titus. “All of a sudden I got an email from them Monday and then Tuesday we got another email and they told us they can’t make it, we don’t have a full team.”
The Outlaws (6-4), winners of four straight games, were in a pickle.
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While the game was an exhibition after the Outlaws closed the regular season with a 57-36 victory at Rapid City (South Dakota) on May 20, they wanted to stay sharp for the upcoming playoffs. Plus, as Titus explained the team has obligations to sponsors and the Metra.
So, Titus met with team executives and visited with other CIF team owners and league officials. The answer: play a flag football game against Outlaws alumni.
So, that was what the Outlaws planned to do Thursday night at the Metra. The flag football game was scheduled to start at 7 p.m.
For $5 general admission fans could come watch the flag football game. Those who had purchased single-game tickets for the contest against the Invaders and who wanted a refund could visit the MetraPark box office Titus said. Season-ticket holders could discuss options with the Outlaws front office staff.
“We have some alumni that play competitive flag football and some current players that do,” said Titus. “We will try to make it an annual thing and have a flag football game with alumni every year.”
Billings has clinched a first-round playoff game against the Sioux City (Iowa) Bandits (5-4). The question is whether the Outlaws would play at home or on the road. Sioux City will play the Omaha Beef (9-0) on Saturday. If Omaha beats Sioux City, the Outlaws would host the Bandits in the first round on Monday, June 5, at the Metra. However, if Sioux City were to prevail over Omaha the Outlaws would visit the Bandits on Saturday, June 3. The Metra isn’t available over the June 2-4 weekend for a playoff game due to a Jehovah's Witnesses convention at the facility.
Although it wasn't a perfect situation, Titus was glad that the team was able to rebound on short notice and hold an event on Thursday night, even if it wasn’t the original contest vs. the Invaders.
"It was the only option we had," he said. "Some people were going to be upset regardless. If we cancel, people are going to be upset and if we have a flag football game, people are going to be upset. But, if we have a flag football game it will upset the least amount of people."
Titus said considering the tight time frame and options he “was proud of the (Outlaws) front office for putting this together.”
All told, Titus explained he would be making a proposal to eliminate exhibition games in the CIF next season. He said if another CIF team pulls out of a game, the league issues a $50,000 fine to that organization.
“When the season wraps up and we have the league meeting, I’ll have a proposal to end all exhibition games and extend our league season by two games so this doesn’t happen again,” he said.
“We apologize to the fans. This is embarrassing to us. We’ll take corrective action to make sure this doesn’t happen again.”
NOTES: Billings Outlaws quarterback Lorenz Stefan was the CIF offensive player of the week for his efforts in the win over the Marshals. Stefan was 22 of 27 passing for 209 yards with one interception and seven touchdown passes.
Email Gazette Sports Editor John Letasky at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter at @GazSportsJohnL