Fever's Season Ends in Billings - NBC Right Now/KNDO/KNDU Tri-Cities, Yakima, WA |

Fever's Season Ends in Billings

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BILLINGS, Mont. – The Tri-Cities Fever came within a few inches of shocking the Indoor Football League world and the Billings Outlaws.

But, in the end, a few costly penalties ended the Fever's remarkable second-half turnaround to the season with a 54-45 loss to the defending IFL champions Sunday at the Billings SportsPlex.

The Fever ends its season first IFL season with a 7-8 record after a 1-5 start -- four of those losses came against the Outlaws (13-2). Billings moves on to play with winner of West Texas/Amarillo in the second round.

Tri-Cities, which lost to the Outlaws 68-40 last Saturday, had a chance to tie the game or take the lead with four minutes left, trailing 52-45.

The Fever, however, could not take advantage. Tri-Cities was called for a hold in the end zone for a safety and gave the ball back to Billings on its next possession, down 54-45, ending a chance for a comeback.

Earlier in the second half, it was Billings that needed to comeback. It appeared the Fever was in full control after a strong close to the first half and a fast start to the third quarter.

Tri-Cities took its first lead of the game on its first possession of the third quarter. The Fever needed just two plays to go 31 yards and scored on an 11-yard run by Ray Little. Houston Lillard ran the ball in the end zone for a two-point conversion and Tri-Cities led 35-32. The Fever then appeared to have Billings stopped after four straight plays. But a roughing the kicker penalty on fourth-down-and-12 gave the ball back to the Outlaws and they would eventually score going ahead, 38-35.

The Fever had the answer, four plays later Lillard scored on a 2-yard run to give Tri-Cities the lead again at 42-38. But the Outlaws would score the next two touchdowns to take the lead for good.

The upset that almost was, was quite a feat after the Fever got off to another slow start against the Outlaws. Billings returned the opening kickoff for a touchdown and led 13-0 less than 4 minutes into the game. Billings, which led 27-7 after the first quarter a week earlier, was off to a 26-7 start Sunday. Only this time, the Fever would not go away.

Tri-Cities scored on its final three possessions of the first half and trailed 32-27 at halftime, turning the second half into a game that would not be decided until the final minutes.

Lillard had a solid game for the Fever, completing 21 of 34 passes for 206 yards and three touchdowns. He also ran for another touchdown.

Brandon Copeland had eight catches for 82 yards and one touchdown to lead the Fever receiving corps. Little and Thyron Lewis each had four catches.

Billings quarterback Chris Dixon was nearly perfect. He completed 15 of 20 passes for 162 yards and five touchdowns. He also ran for 134 yards on 18 carries and another score.