While the current forecast of professional football in Bismarck looks like a dismal, dark night, fans look for a flicker of hope to shine a warm light on their brand. It's no secret that the Bismarck Bucks of the Indoor Football League have shocked fans for the wrong reasons lately. After a 7-8 regular season a year ago, and a playoff trip that ended at Massachusetts to a Pirates team that went on to win the United Bowl--things looked decent. Then, the start of 2022 looked decent. In the first 3 weeks, the Bucks beat the Green Bay Blizzard twice and had a Chase Allbaugh deuce tie the game in the Battle of the Dakota's. His deuce would have tied the game up at 38 against a Sioux Falls Storm team that Bismarck has never beat in their history. The problem? Coach Kurtiss Riggs called a timeout to ice the kicker on a deuce attempt! That's a first! He missed the next attempt and later had a field goal attempt to win the game by one. It was blocked! Storm win 38-36, but Bismarck cemented themselves as a viable foe....or so we thought.
After another loss at Massachusetts, the Bucks went to San Jose and routed the Bay Area Panthers 76-46! 76 points in one game is no small feat on the road. Bismarck looked good! Then.......the downfall. It took them 3 1/2 games to get another 76 points. They looked stagnant on offense putting up 17 on Quad City, and then Green Bay, a team Bismarck had won 6 straight times, comes into town and routs the Bucks 55-14.
From there, Bismarck would lose 3 straight road games by one score. Every game, they were in the hunt. But let's be honest: Bucks get hunted every year. Whether you ARE game, or IN the game, the name Bucks just tends to lead to death, or defeat.
At times, Bismarck has shown great heart in fighting to the bitter end. 5 of their 12 losses were by one score. It seems that no matter where the Bucks turn, the Bucks stop there. What's behind all of this? What's behind the last two years where Bismarck starts hot, then declines? Is it the constant switch in personnel? Whenever a player has a bad game, he gets benched or released? Whenever a kicker misses a pair of PAT's, the kicker gets no more attempts for the game? Whatever happened to Tahj Tolbert? At least Bismarck was 3-7 with him; 0-5 since he was released. It's hard to say, really.
To be fair, the coaches know what they are dealing with better than any passionate fan could. The small town of Bismarck, amid the plains of the North Dakota prairie isn't exactly the tourist attraction that would excite the best athletes to come play. Most people probably haven't heard of Bismarck since their fifth-grade geography class. I'm just glad they have a professional football team! They don't lack in the entertainment department, and the coaches may have obstacles that most couldn't hardly handle. Still, in the mind of many of the fans, we wonder what can be done different. After 10 straight losses and a trip to Northern Arizona, to play the league-leading Wrangler defense, it's been a dismal end to what seemed to be hopeful at first.
While the fans may be holding their heads low, we certainly hope that Rod Miller and his coaching staff are holding their heads high and will right the ship. The Ship, after all, is what they have in their scope. Other IFL teams might have Bucks in their scope with their finger on the trigger, but perhaps Miller and Company will have set up a decoy and will hunt the hunters in 2023. Don't give up hope!
By Ducon Williams