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Thursday, June 17, 2004 04:27 pm

What could be finer than pigskin and suds?


You may never have heard of the Capital City Outlaws, Springfield's very own semipro football team, but they're making lots of noise in the Original Midwest Football League. They placed second last year in their division. This season, they'll be busy "kicking butts and taking names," promises Jay Gooding, the team's general manager. "We're sitting in the best place we've ever been prior to the season opener," adds head coach Chris Lawson.

The pigskin lovers play football July-September with 13 other teams from Illinois, Indiana, and Missouri. They play on high school fields, in village parks, and sometimes, as in the case of this week's exhibition game, indoors. "Soccerworld is great. They have a full bar. There's nothing like watching football and drinking a cold beer," Gooding says.

Members of the Outlaws, who range in age from 18 to 38, were once known as Tornadoes, Cyclones, Pretzels, Spartans, Bullets, Senators, or Lions and by other monikers familiar to local high school sports fans. "We have guys from every major Springfield high school and most other schools within a 30-mile radius," Gooding says. "Some played just in high school, others went on to college -- two of them got calls from the CFL [Canadian Football League] last year. But they've all got families and jobs yet still commit to several games a season and practice a couple times a week."

A local semipro football team has been around town under different names and management for about 12 years. In 2003, the team obtained franchise representation from the MFL and, under the guidance of head coach Chris Lawson, reached the championship game in the Northern Division of the Original Midwest Football League. The organization has its own Super Bowl and Pro Bowl (the Casino Bowl, not the Semipro Bowl) and most-valuable-player awards, just like the National Football League. "'Semipro' means they play for nothing but the love of the game," Gooding says. "Even if we win the Super Bowl, we have to buy our own rings. We're a not-for-profit organization. All we make goes right back in to keeping the game going."

And the game gets going in earnest on July 24, when the Outlaws begin the official outdoor season by taking on the Lafayette, Ind., Lions. They'll attempt to avenge their defeat by the Lions in last year's championship game. League play lasts through September; postseason games run into October.


The Capital City Outlaws meet the Decatur Bears on Saturday, June 19, in an Original Midwest Football League exhibition game at Soccerworld, 2700 W. Lawrence Ave. The gates open at 6:30 p.m., and the game begins at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $5 for adults and $3 for children under 10. For advance tickets, call Jay Gooding at 217-414-2714.

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