Playoff hopes grow dim as Red Dogs hit road tonight

06/08/02 Rapid City Journal
It takes 18 hours or so to get to Enid, Okla., where the Rapid City Red Dogs will take on the Oklahoma Crude at 6:05 p.m. tonight, but the ride is likely to seem a lot longer.

Red Dogs players and coaches are going to have a lot of time to ponder a season that has now seemingly slipped away. Last week's heartbreaking 66-58 loss to the Bismarck Roughriders dropped Rapid City to 5-6 overall and 2-5 overall and made the Red Dogs' chances of making the National Indoor Football League playoffs appear mighty slim.

"We really needed that one, and I felt like we should have won that game," said Rapid City coach Dan Maciejczak of the Bismarck loss.

"We just had some dumb mistakes that cost us. That's been the story of our season.

"Mathematically, it doesn't look good for getting into the playoffs, but we've got three weeks left and we're going to go out and try and get three victories."

Maciejczak, a guy who always played with a ton of heart, will look to his team to show much of the same during the final three weeks of the season.

"It's important for our organization to win out," said Maciejczak. "We want to win the rest of our games, which helps with me getting players in for the following season. It's important for the guys if they think they're going to get anywhere else. And a guy's pride is on the line."

The Crude have had their share of struggles this season, too.

In late May, Morris Lolar stepped down as head coach at Oklahoma after getting off to a 1-7 start. John Merrell, a highly successful 8-man high school coach in Oklahoma City, took over as head man, but the Crude dropped a 61-53 decision in his first game.

That, in a nutshell, has been a constant during Oklahoma's initial NIFL season - close but no cigar.

"They've struggled a little bit," said Maciejczak, "but they play teams close and they play well at home."

Making Oklahoma a bit more dangerous this week are some familiar faces. John Carnevali, who quarterbacked a game for Rapid City early in the season, is now the signal-caller for the Crude. Former Red Dogs Jermaine Collins and Michael Porter are also a part of the Oklahoma lineup.

The Crude are without the services of wide receiver-running back Corey Edwards, who left at the end of May for a three-month assignment with the Air Force, and running back Earnest Hunter, who has an injured knee.

There's not much more information available on Oklahoma; the Crude front office hasn't turned statistics into the NIFL office since the team's fourth game.

Maciejczak said there is an outside chance his Red Dogs could make the playoffs, but he conceded that it would be tough.

"In order to get to that position, Billings would have to lose out, which is possible because they play Bismarck twice and us once," he said. "But then their last game is La Crosse. That's the one where I foresee, even if they lose three, Billings pops into the playoffs with that last one against them."

Maciejczak noted only one player is sidelined for this week's game. Jesse Dymon Adams is expected to sit out because of an injured foot.

The Red Dogs close the home portion of their schedule next Saturday when the Billings Outlaws visit the Rushmore Plaza Civic Center. Kickoff is scheduled for 7:05 p.m.

Rapid City's regular season wraps up on June 15 when the Red Dogs face the Sioux Falls Storm at the Sioux Falls Arena.

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