Six days after handing the Tri-Cities Fever a last-minute home loss, the Billings Wolves extended their franchise-best winning streak to three games with a wire-to-wire 61-50 Indoor Football League victory over the Fever inside Rimrock Auto Arena at MetraPark on Friday night.
“That’s three weeks in a row that we’ve finished a ballgame,” Wolves coach Chris Dixon said. “A month ago when we let teams back into the game after getting a big lead, we would falter and they’d take it from us.”
The Wolves started strong when quarterback Darakatalib Britt found Regginald Lewis Jr. for a 30-yard touchdown pass on the game's first play from scrimmage.
“That was something that we really wanted to do this week,” Britt said. “We typically don’t take shots like that to open the game and coach Dixon had it drawn up and we executed.”
The Wolves built their lead to 26-6 by halftime. Britt had four touchdown passes – each to a different receiver – including a 3-yard strike to Demarius Washington to close the half.
“We have gone with the philosophy of building this team from the outside in,” Dixon said of the offensive balance. “(Dak) wasn’t our starter to begin the season and we brought him in and he’s improved every week. Now we’re starting to bring in players to put around him and you’re seeing that result.”
One of those additions is running back Julian Laing.
Laing had only 30 yards rushing, but two were for touchdowns. He also made an acrobatic catch for a touchdown on fourth down in the second quarter to put the Wolves up 14-3.
“It was a great throw,” Laing said. “He put it where only the receiver could get it and I was able to go up and make the play.”
While the Wolves led wire-to-wire, the game was certainly in doubt midway through the third quarter after Tri-Cities cut the lead to 26-20 on two quick touchdown runs from Andrew Pierce.
After a 42-yard field goal from Thomas Chameraud, the Fever again answered to cut the gap to 29-27.
But just as quickly as the Fever took control of the second half, Lewis stole the momentum back for the Wolves with a 50-yard kickoff return for a touchdown on the ensuing kick.
“I got some great blocks and was able to get into the open,” Lewis said. “I just wanted to provide a spark.”
The wide receiver certainly did that, finishing with 149 all-purpose yards (78 return, 71 receiving).
Britt was 13 of 30 passing for 137 yards and no interceptions and added 71 yards and two touchdowns on the ground.
Fever (7-5) quarterback Dominique Blackmon was 19 of 38 for 161 yards and four touchdowns. But he thew two interceptions that the Wolves turned into 14 points.
“We were able to get a split of the season series against our division rival and a team that’s going to the playoffs,” Dixon said. “The next two weeks we have an opportunity to close out our season against divisional opponents with the chance to finish .500 within it. You can’t ask for much more in an inaugural season.”
The Wolves travel to Colorado on June 6 to take on the Ice, who defeated division leader Nebraska on Friday night. Billings closes out its inaugural season at home June 12 against Nebraska.
“We’re going to go down to Colorado with every intention on bringing home a win,” said Laing, who began the season with the Ice. “We have a long-term goal in mind and we need to take it a week at a time.”