NIFL Weekly Report

05/03/02 Rapid City Journal

RAPID CITY -- One day, St. Peter and Satan were having an argument about who would win a game of football, heaven or hell. After much disagreement and trash talking, Satan finally proposed a game to be played on neutral ground between a select team from the heavenly host and his own handpicked boys.

"Very well," said the gatekeeper of Heaven, "but you realize that we've got all the good players and the best coaches."

"I know, I know, but that's all right," Satan answered unperturbed. "We've got all the officials."

My hat goes off to the brave men who don the zebra stripes each weekend in the National Indoor Football League. Never have so few been heckled by so many and paid so little. On behalf of all the fans of all the teams, I thank you. You do a job that few of us would be able to do and we appreciate your hard work. Oh, and get your eyes checked! You blew that last call!

Scoring in the NIFL jumped last week as the average game produced 83 points combined. Away teams still cannot get many breaks as seven out of ten visitors were sent packing with a loss. Scoring was tight though, with visiting opponents scoring an average of 38 points per game as opposed to the 45 points per game that their hosts averaged.

My football forecasting "talent" is slowly getting better as the season rolls on. Last week, I managed an 8-2 showing, bringing my season total to 38-17.

The NIFL has nine games slated for this upcoming weekend.

Tonight's games

Rapid City Red Dogs (3-4)

at Tri City Diesel (2-4)

The Red Dogs seem to have finally gotten over their early season mistakes and are beginning to resemble the 13-1 team of last season. The Diesel is a high-flying team that can score with the best of them. These squads match up very well when compared to each other. I expect a close game decided in the final minutes and a Red Dog win.

Lake Charles Land Sharks (4-0)

at Louisiana Rangers (3-1)

In a battle of winning streaks, the Land Sharks travel to Alexandria, La., to take on the Rangers. The Sharks are riding a four-game start where they have yet to suffer a loss. The Rangers have won their last three games after dropping their home opener. Both teams sit atop their respective divisions and are two of the best teams that the Atlantic Conference has to offer. The Sharks have struggled to put away teams over the last two weeks, while the Rangers have been playing consistent football. Call it an upset, but I like the Rangers to win.

Saturday's games

Omaha Beef (4-1)

at Oklahoma Crude (1-4)

After beating the Sioux Falls Storm last week, the Omaha Beef are back. On the other hand, the Crude seems to still be working out the kinks. While the Crude is a team on the rise, don't expect them to be anywhere near a victory this week. The Beef stampede their way to 5-1.

Sioux City Bandits (5-0)

at Lincoln Capitols (3-2)

This is the game of the week in the NIFL. The Bandits sit atop the Pacific North division with a perfect 5-0 record. The Capitols are in real danger of dropping out of the division title hunt if they lose to Sioux City. Both teams have everything to play for. I predict that this game will be a close with the outcome decided by single digits. The Bandits stay undefeated.

Wyoming Cavalry (0-6)

at La Crosse Night Train (0-5)

The best thing that can be said about this game is that one team will finally break into the win column. After representing the Pacific Conference in the NIFL Championship Game last year, the Cavalry has fallen on hard times. The Night Train is struggling as well, having been outplayed in every game. Even with their losing records, there is a difference between these teams. The Cavalry is flat-out better, with fewer problems that need fixing. Wyoming finally gets a break and a win.

OV Greyhounds (4-0)

at River City Renegades (0-5)

Warning, this game is rated R and is intended for mature audiences only. It will contain graphic violence, harsh language and brief nudity. Okay, I'm kidding about the nudity, but the rest is true enough. The Greyhounds will absolutely destroy the Renegades this week, causing uttered profanities to come from the Renegades coaching staff. It won't be pretty, but it will be entertaining.

Tennessee Thundercats (3-2)

at Winston-Salem Energy (2-3)

This divisional showdown has playoff implications for both teams. Each is chasing after the undefeated OV Greyhounds and, with reportedly only one wild-card spot being available in the Atlantic Conference, neither can afford a divisional loss. This game separates the men from the boys as the Thundercats improve to 4-2 while the Energy kiss their playoff hopes goodbye.

Austin Knights (1-4)

at Tupelo Fire Ants (1-3)

While they are a young expansion team, the Knights are coming together. Their last two losses were by 7 points total with those games being played against two different division leaders. The Fire Ants simply cannot find a way to put points onto the board and are being out-muscled at every turn. Expect more of the same for Tupelo as the Knights joust their way to victory.

Sunday's game

Mississippi Firedogs (2-2)

at Houma Bayou Bucks (1-4)

After a slow start, the defending champion Firedogs finally are looking like a team to be reckoned with. Coach Favre has turned his squad around and is looking to make a run. Unfortunately for the Bucks, they're next in line to face the new and improved Firedogs. The Firedogs will take the lead early and never look back.

NIFL Power Poll

The power poll a ranking system voted upon by a host of NIFL fans and experts from around the league. The pollster ranks each team from best to worst, 1st to 21st. A first-place vote is worth 21 points while a last-place vote is worth 1 point. The points are then averaged and each team is ranked according to power.

Rank, score, team, comments:

* 1, (tie) 20 points, Lake Charles Land Sharks - They have been winning ugly as of late. Are they on the verge of a breakdown?

1, (tie) 20 points, Ohio Valley Greyhounds - They're consistent, talented and good. By the end of the year they'll be the sole owners of the No. 1 spot.

* 3, 19 points, Sioux City Bandits - A dominating performance against Lincoln would do wonders for this team.

* 4, (tie) 18 points, Billings Outlaws - A roster full of talent and an easy remaining schedule? You'd think they were in the Atlantic Conference.

4, (tie) 18 points, Omaha Beef - The Beef had a slump that lasted exactly one game. I'd hate to be in their division.

* 6, 16 points, Sioux Falls Storm - No longer the best team on the poll or even in their division. Has a Sioux Falls losing streak begun?

* 7, 15 points, Louisiana Rangers - I've given this team no respect all year, until now. Did I jump on the bandwagon too soon?

* 8, 14 points, Lincoln Capitols - This team is a yo-yo - up one week, down the next. Would the real Capitols squad please stand up?

* 9, 13 points, Bismarck Roughriders - QB situation is solved, but I've seen better turf playing mini-golf.

* 10, 12 points, Tennessee Thundercats - For the first time this season, the 'Cats will string two wins together.

* 11, (tie) 10 points, Rapid City Red Dogs - They've got three wins over two teams with one win between them. This week will show the direction of this club.

11, (tie) 10 points, Mississippi Firedogs - With 10 games remaining, the Firedogs could and should turn some heads. A division title isn't out of the question.

11, (tie) 10 points, Tri-City Diesel - They're on a two-game skid with Rapid City coming to town. They need a win.

* 14, 9 points, Winston Salem Energy - The best true expansion team in the league. That doesn't mean much.

* 15, 7 points, Austin Knights - They're still overrated, but are better than I've given them credit for.

* 16, (tie) 6 points, Bayou Bucks - Okay, exactly what is a Bayou Buck? A deer with moss growing from its' antlers?

16, (tie) 6 points, Tupelo Fire Ants - Tupelo averages 19.5 points per game. My son's pee-wee team averages 24 points per game. No, he isn't available to play.

* 18, (tie) 4 points, Oklahoma Crude - Don't expect much movement from the Crud for the weeks to come.

18, (tie) 4 points, Wyoming Cavalry - Back to back games vs. La Crosse could mean two Cavalry victories.

* 20, 2 points, La Crosse Night Train - New head coach, new direction from the team, same result. 0 wins.

* 21, 1 point, River City Renegades - Well, there is only one way to go from here.

Rocky Larson is a season ticket holder for the Rapid City Red Dogs and a supporter of professional sports in the region. He lives in Piedmont with his wife, Jennifer, and their son, Connor.

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