Playoff Primer – Billings Outlaws

The Billings Outlaws have lived and died by one mantra, which Cedric Walker instilled into the team from day one: “One game at a time.” That mentality has led them to finish the season with the league’s best record, 8-1.

Billings has found a way to win each week, whether it was a blowout victory or a hard-fought come-from-behind win. This team has found ways to win. 

Coach Walker spoke about how the team’s focus has remained the same.

“They fully understand the mission. We are still trying to go 1-0 every week. We are very focused, and the team knows the ramifications. They understand the moment, but they are still having fun with it, which is important. But they are locked in, they know practice matters, and we can’t have any type of letdowns.”

The Offense

Billings boasts the league’s second-best offense, powered by Isaac Harker, who is third in passing yards and second in touchdowns. Gelling perfectly into Coach Bonner’s offense, he has found his weapons in bunches and terrorized defenses.

With a three-headed wide receiver core, Ka’Ronce Higgins, Derrick Harvey, and Duane Brown, the group was nearly unstoppable. Ka’Ronce will most likely be coming off injury if he is able to play for the Outlaws in the playoffs.

However, two key players have stepped up in his absence, Dallas Dixon and Arthur Anderson IV. Duane Brown ended the regular season third in receiving yards and fifth in receiving touchdowns.

Between Duane Brown and Arthur Anderson, the pair man the returns and are always a threat to make a huge play anytime they get the ball.

Hunter Swoboda has been another key piece for the Outlaws. A more traditional power back, Swoboda finished third in rush yards and touchdowns behind a pair of quarterbacks. His ability to catch the ball out of the backfield has allowed them to keep pressure on defenses.

The offensive line is not to be overlooked. The positions above would be unable to do what they do without this incredible unit. The line has only surrendered six sacks the entire year. They are an imposing threat: big, fast, and skilled.

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The Defense

The Outlaws defense was the second most stout group in the league, holding opponents to 29 points per game. Led by a trio of linemen Saiosi Finua, Chase McGowen, and LaQuan Johnson Jr., the group constantly applied pressure on the quarterback.

Finua collected four sacks, LaQuan followed him with three, and McGowen collected a pair of sacks. This allowed Billings to force teams to play a more one-dimensional game.

The linebacker core, led by Cedric Thomas and Isaiah Farland, made it hard for teams to run the ball. Thomas led the team in tackles and finished fourth in the league with 27.

The Outlaws might boast the best defensive back group in the league. Derrick Harvey might be one of the league’s most havoc-causing defenders. He’s tied for third in the league in interceptions at three; it doesn’t do justice to how large his impact has been.

Constantly breaking up passes, making tackles, or locking up a team’s best wide receiver, Harvey has given this team a true threat in the backend of the defense to round out the squad.

The Road

Billings cruised to a start of 4-0, playing Wichita, Washington, Rapid City, and Salina. Then, they took on their first real test with West Texas, who gave them the closest game to that point in the season with a final score of 58-49.

In Week 7, Billings hosted Nashville in what looked like a back-to-back tough test for the Outlaws. Unfortunately, their undefeated season ended with a 57-54 nail-biting loss. Billings returned to practice and went to work because, in Week 8, they thumped the Wolfpack 58-18.

In the final regular season game for the Outlaws, they hosted the league’s best offense, the Albany Firebirds. Down most of the game, Billings hung tight and won in the final seconds.

Heading into the playoffs, Billings secured the top seed as well as a round one bye.

Coach Walker talked about how the team will look to prepare with two weeks off between games.

“We gave them the week off and treated it as a regular bye week. This week, we are treating it as a regular week, and once we find out who is playing the following week, it will be business as usual.”

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