Red Dogs playoff hopes dim

06/18/03 Loyal Dog

The playoff hopes of the Rapid City Red Dogs were hampered this past weekend when the Billings Outlaws denied them of a win.  Rapid City is still in the hunt, but they will need some major help to get in.  With such great teams in the Pacific Conference even the mighty Utah Warriors are finding themselves without a playoff spot after an 8-1start, which looked early on to be the Pacific favorite this season.  Only one team has thus far clinched a post-season spot, the Omaha Beef at 9-3 have clinched their division title and will have home field advantage, through the first two games at least, if they win out.  As for now, Utah is in great position for the #2 seed, followed by the Sioux Falls Storm, the Bismarck Roughriders, The Lincoln Capitols, and then the Red Dogs.

After a superb second half performance by the Red Dogs last week at home, they traveled to the second straight meeting with Billings.  The game was great, as most Pacific West match-ups usually are, but the Outlaws proved just how tough they are at home.  I would have to say that I for one was very impressed at how the fans poured into the arena to see their final home game of the season.  The Billings Outlaws were eliminated from the playoffs with their loss to Rapid City last week, but their fans supported them anyway, standing and yelling (as fans are allowed to do everywhere but in Lexington), and gave their team it’s ninth man.  I was very proud to see that, as I am a fan of the entire league as well as a Rapid City fan. 

I could go into stats for you, but I’m not going to sit here and copy stats from the newspaper or from the NIFL website, if you want those you can find them easy enough.  What I will do is tell you what I saw, the good, and the bad.  First let’s get the negatives out of the way.  The main one would be a throat slash motion made by a Billings’s player while a Rapid City player was injured.  Personally I didn’t see the gesture as I was looking to see one of my favorite players, Zack Jones, in apparent pain on the field.  However the Ref’s did see the infraction, and did the right thing by calling an unsportsmanlike penalty on Billings.  Obviously one of the Red Dogs did something wrong as well, as the Billings penalty was offset by one of our own.  I would like to go on record saying that there is no place in this game to celebrate injuring a player.

On Rapid City’s final drive there was a very obvious pass interference in the end zone that didn’t get called, but a holding call was assessed against the Red Dogs.  This call may have been correct, but if the pass interference had been called the Red Dogs would have been in great field position for a touchdown or a tying field goal.  I will not sit here and say that the Ref’s cost Rapid City the game.  That wouldn’t be true.  Rapid City still had a shot to win, but they were denied when Terrance Bryant was picked off, only the fifth interception of the season for him, and Billings had to do nothing more than take two knees to win the game.  There were also some other things that disturbed me, like the Outlaw players trying to throw the Red Dogs players over the walls, and smashing them into the boards, which is allowed, but then trying to strip them of their facemasks.  Such actions are not needed to win games. 

All right, my little rant is out of the way, let’s move on to the positives.  I enjoyed meeting all of the fans, a few that I knew and many that I didn’t.  If you are a fan of a team in this league I strongly suggest fitting as many road trips in as your personal schedule will allow.  If your personal schedule gets in the way, clear it to make room.  Of all the road trips I have made, I have only come across a few obnoxious fans that heckle opposing fans, curse at them, or even have resorted to throwing things.  That is what security is good for though, besides tossing out fans that are supporting their team and in doing so are in the way of a few people that are too drunk to stand.  That incident happened to a fellow fan of the Lexington Horseman this past weekend, and it was unjust.  I have never been tossed out for supporting my team, at home or away, and as long as your support is kept within the boundaries no one ever should be.  Besides these few non-fans, this league has some of the greatest fans I know of any comparable sport.  I have been congratulated for driving 4-6 hours to watch a three hour long game many times.  It is awesome that these rival fans would come and say hi and thanks for coming to our game, or have a safe trip home, and they don’t even know you.

 A Final Request: If ever you see a rival teams fans in your arena, I encourage each and everyone to go up to them and say things like that, shake their hands, congratulate them on their dedication to their team, to this league, and most of all to the greatest sport on earth.  You never know, it just might be me you are talking to.  GO RED DOGS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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