Cradle held in check as Billings rips Riders

04/14/02 Bismarck Tribune
BILLINGS, Mont. -- The Cradle did not rock Friday night.

Instead, it was the Billings Outlaws who rocked and rolled to an easy, 69-23, victory over the Bismarck Roughriders.

The third National Indoor Football League win in a row improves the Outlaws to 4-1. Bismarck is 2-2.

Albert Higgs tossed a season-high seven touchdown passes for the Outlaws -- two each to Cory Grow, James Owens and Robert Hampton -- while the defense intercepted six passes, three by Jermaine Washington.

The 69 points is a season best for Billings, as is the 23 points allowed. Brian Meier, normally a starting receiver, got some work at quarterback in the fourth quarter. He tossed one touchdown pass and ran for another.

Two years ago, Bismarck's Quentin Cradle came to Metra as a member of the Bismarck Blaze. He proceeded to pummel the then-Billings Thunder Bolts defense for 182 yards rushing and five touchdowns. On one of those, Cradle rumbled past Luke Twibell, now a linebacker for the Outlaws.

"Oh, it was big-time revenge," said Twibell, who kept Cradle in check the entire game. "I just think this time, everybody on the field stepped up and played well.

"The defensive line did a great job of keeping the offensive line off of me, and the defensive backs did a great job of coming up close to help. Cradle's a great athlete and you have to give him his due, but we really played well as a team. We always had a couple of jerseys around the ball."

Cradle finished with just 62 yards on 17 carries.

His longest run from the line of scrimmage was 17 yards. He had a 19-yard run in the first half, but it was erased because of a penalty.

"We just played up on him and made the quarterback beat us. And we didn't think he could," said Joe Curtiss, the Outlaws' head coach of containing Cradle "We knew we might give up some big plays here and there, but we knew if we could stop Cradle we'd be in the game."

Billings built a 30-9 lead by halftime as Ed Coleman started the Outlaws' scoring with a 10-yard run. Higgs followed with touchdown passes to Owens (18 yards), Jaquwan Brackenridge (2 yards) and Grow (18 yards). Grow's touchdown catch came on fourth down.

Two of the scores were set up by Washington interceptions.

With Cradle ineffective -- just 27 yards on 10 carries in the first half -- quarterback Jason Baliko was forced to pass. He finished an abysmal 5 of 25 passing for 132 yards. He did have touchdown passes of 22, 45 and 28 yards.

"Watching film in practice, we knew when they passed they went for the deep post," said Washington. "And they didn't change it up.

"We forced them to pass and that's what we wanted. When a team is one-dimensional, our defense is pretty tough."

Shon Flores had two interceptions for the Outlaws, while Brackenridge had the other.

Grow, who joined the team last week in Kearney, Neb., finished with seven catches for 126 yards, the most by an Outlaw receiver this season.

Billings scored 27 fourth-quarter points as the Roughriders disintegrated in a sea of yellow flags. Bismarck had 15 penalties for 115 yards. Each team had a player ejected. Keyon Kemp was tossed early in the first quarter after a kickoff return, while Bismarck's Danielle Kendal-Rollins was tossed in the fourth quarter after trying to drop-kick Coleman.

"I told them we can't lose another guy," said Curtiss of what the coaches told the team. "We told them to stand their ground, but play football between the lines. Play to the whistle and let the officials sort out the rest of it.

"I'm very happy with the way our guys performed and the way they conducted themselves."

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