NIFL Weekly Report

05/18/02 Rapid City Journal
RAPID CITY -- Four National Indoor Football League fans decided to go mountain climbing one afternoon: a Rapid City Red Dogs fan, a Sioux Falls Storm fan, a Billings Outlaws fan and a Bismarck Roughriders fan. On their way to the top of the mountain, the four fans argued who among them was the most "hard core" fan.

Upon reaching the top of the mountain, the Billings fan proclaimed to the other three, "This is for the Outlaws!" and promptly threw himself off the mountainside. Not to be beaten by a Billings fan, the Bismarck fan jumped up and bellowed, "This is for my Roughriders!" and proceeded to do a back-flip off of the mountaintop. Refusing to be outdone by the Billings and Bismarck fans, the Rapid City fan leapt to his feet and yelled at the top of his lungs, "This is for the Rapid City Red Dogs!" and, without hesitation, pushed the Sioux Falls fan off the mountain.

This week I pay homage to the fans of every football team in the NIFL. Without the fans there wouldn't be town rivalries, local sports heroes or indoor football. So, from the rabid body-painted screamer to the family of four out for a good time, thank you. You make the games worth playing.

For the first time this season, scoring was completely even in the NIFL this past week as both home and away teams averaged a score of 39 points. As one would expect, the win-loss ratio was razor-close as the hosts won five of the nine games. I also managed a 5-4 record in my predictions, bringing my yearly total to 46-26, or 63.8 percent accuracy.

Tonight's games

Bismarck Roughriders (5-2) at Sioux Falls Storm (6-2)

Bismarck is a new-look team as of late and is riding a three-game winning streak. Last week Bismarck beat 6-2 Billings in Billings. Sioux Falls is not healthy and outlasted a capable Lincoln Capitols team last week. These teams met the first week of the season with the Storm beating the Roughriders 48-20. Expect this game to be much closer with plenty of lead changes. In the end, I like the Roughriders to pull out the win.

Lincoln Capitols (4-3)

at Wyoming Cavalry (1-7)

Last week the Capitols hung tough against the Sioux Falls Storm. The Capitols' problem is putting together four quarters of good football each game. Even with their abysmal 1-7 record, the Cavalry suffer from the same problem. If any team has perfected the art of losing games late, it is Wyoming. Tack on the fact that they're inconsistent on defense and you've got a team that is its own worst enemy. You just can't win that way. Capitols cruise to victory.

Tri-City Diesel (3-5)

at Rapid City Red Dogs (4-5)

Don't let their records fool you; these two teams can play with anybody in the league. That makes their losing records all the more frustrating for their organizations and fans alike. The Diesel shocked the league in beating the heavily-favored Omaha Beef last week while the Red Dogs finally lost in overtime to the Sioux City Bandits. So how will this game turn out? The Diesel are hurting at WR and QB. If the Red Dogs jump out to an early lead, they should be able to hang onto it. That is exactly what will happen. Red Dogs even their record at 5-5.

Omaha Beef (5-2)

at Billings Outlaws (6-2)

These teams may say otherwise, but both are at a cross-road. Each team has a real shot at winning its division title and a loss this week would hinder that pursuit. If neither team wins its division, another distinct possibility, this game could count toward a head-to-head tiebreaker in order to make the playoffs as a wild card. Both teams lost last week. Omaha is a dangerous team that likes to control the ball with its balanced offense and stingy defense. Billings is a team that likes to air out the long ball and can score at the drop of a hat. This should be a high-scoring, hard-hitting affair. Omaha is good, but Billings is better. The Outlaws rustle the Beef.

Oklahoma Crude (1-6) at

Lake Charles Land Sharks (7-0)

The Crude have improved by leaps and bounds since the beginning of the season even though wins continue to elude them. The Land Sharks have done just enough on offense to win while their defense keeps other teams down. More of the same can be expected this week as the Crude play a good game but the Land Sharks get the win.

Louisiana Bayou Bucks (2-4)

at Winston-Salem Energy (3-4)

These two teams faced off last week in a game where both teams ended up losers. A bench-clearing fight broke out in the third quarter, forcing the game to be called early. Fines, suspensions and losers were earned by each team as the league took care of business. But, in a quirk of scheduling fate, these teams meet one week later. This game will be under a magnifying glass. With that said, the Energy are simply a better team than the Bucks. If the game finishes without interruption, which I think it will, the final will be an Energy win by 20-plus points.

Mississippi Firedogs (2-4)

at OV Greyhounds (5-0)

Try as they might, the NIFL champ Firedogs have not been able to put together a winning effort on the field. A lack of confidence has gripped this squad and won't let go. The Greyhounds are far and away the best team in the Atlantic Conference and should have no problem in keeping their undefeated season alive. Greyhounds win.

Austin Knights (3-4)

at Louisiana Rangers (3-3)

The Knights have been coming on strong as of late and could make a run into the playoffs in the weak Atlantic Conference. The Rangers have lost two in a row and are looking to turn things around this week at home. The Knights have more swagger in their step and, at this point, the Rangers appear to be flat. Attitude carries over to the field as the Knights steal a game on the road.

Sunday's game

Tupelo Fire Ants (2-4)

at Tennessee Thundercats (4-3)

The Fire Ants just barely held off the hapless River City Renegades (0-7) last week while the Thundercats won convincingly over the Louisiana Rangers. The Ants don't seem to be able to get a 100 percent effort from both their offense and their defense during any given game. You need to play well to beat the Thundercats, and the Fire Ants haven't shown that they're able. The Thundercats improve to 5-3 and keep their playoff hopes alive.

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.

1, (21) Ohio Valley Greyhounds, 5-0. Nobody in the Atlantic will dethrone this team. They could run the board.

2, (20) Lake Charles Land Sharks, 7-0. Their offense needs to get into gear. Only an easy schedule has kept them undefeated.

3, (19) Sioux City Bandits, 6-1. They're good, but they needed overtime to beat a .500 team?

4, (tie at 17) Bismarck Roughriders, 5-2. Forget their ranking; this is the team to beat in the Pacific Conference.

(17) Sioux Falls Storm, 6-2. This week could mean the difference between a division title and a fight for a wild card spot.

6, (16) Omaha Beef, 5-2. You lost to whom?

7, (15) Billings Outlaws, 6-2. Billings gets to play the Roughriders two more times this season. Not good.

8, (tie at 13) Lincoln Capitols, 4-3. A few good wins and this team will be sitting pretty.

(13) Tennessee Thundercats, 4-3. The same can be said for the Thundercats.

10, (12) Louisiana Rangers, 3-3. Even if they lose this week, falling to 3-4, they'll still be leading their division.

11, (11) Rapid City Red Dogs, 4-5. They could see the postseason, but will require help to make it there. No more losses.

12, (tie at 9) Winston Salem Energy, 3-4. Only a professionally played game and a win will get this team back into the good graces of their public.

(9) Tri-City Diesel, 3-5. Beating Omaha was huge for this team. They'll play the role of spoiler for the rest of the season.

14, (tie at 8) Austin Knights, 3-4. Somebody down in Austin heard that I don't respect the Knights. They're right. Next year, maybe.

(8) Mississippi Firedogs, 2-4. This team isn't even a shadow of a ghost of its former selves. Even then, the playoffs could happen.

16, (tie at 6) Tupelo Fire Ants, 2-4. They're improving game by game, but have they done enough?

(6) Bayou Bucks, 2-5. You won't find a reference to this team and the word "class" in the same sentence very often.

18, (tie at 3) Oklahoma Crude, 1-6. They're the best one-win team in the league! Yes, I typed that with a straight face.

(3) La Crosse Night Train, 1-5. They've had a tough schedule. But what pathetic team hasn't?

(3) Wyoming Cavalry, 1-7. Their fans are talking winning streak! Hope springs eternal in the land of the cow pie.

21, (1) RiverCity Renegades, 0-7. I've heard their coach has now graduated to the super-sized bottle of Tums.

Rocky Larson is a season ticket holder for the Rapid City Red Dogs and a supporter of pro sports in the region.

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