Kats Klaw Out Road Win Behind Hippeard's AFL Return

After coming out of retirement this week, AFL legendary quarterback Randy Hippeard led a game-winning touchdown drive in the final 22 seconds remaining, giving the visiting Nashville Kats a 57-54 victory over the previously undefeated Billings Outlaws on Saturday at First Interstate Arena.

The game-winning touchdown with one second remaining was a 15-yard pass from Hippeard to Marquise Irvin.

The win marked the Kats' first road win and third overall, with two bye weeks ahead.

Hippeard showed no signs of rust, completing 34 of 39 passes for 322 yards and six touchdowns.

The Kats' wide receiver corps made it easy for Hippeard to readjust to the speed of an arena football game. Milton Williams III and Irvin combined for 21 receptions and two touchdowns. Irvin led the team with 141 receiving yards, and Williams became Hippeard’s favorite target with 11 catches. Kendrick Ings and Braxton Haley each scored two touchdowns, combining for 103 yards. Ings added 69 yards on kick returns, including a 31-yard run on the opening kickoff.

Irvin got the Kats on the board early with a three-yard rushing score. This was the first time this season that Nashville scored first on the road.

However, on the ensuing kickoff, Duane Brown went the entire length of the field for the Outlaws, and kicker Bailey Giffen hit a deuce on the ensuing kickoff to put the hosts up 8-7. Billings added another score late in the opening frame off a 30-yard pass from Isaac Harker to Ka’Ronce Higgins, leading 15-7 after 15 minutes.

The second quarter saw both teams double their totals, with Billings leading 39-28 at halftime.

Nashville scored on a wild sequence on the second play of the quarter when Hippeard completed a 22-yard pass to Irvin, who fumbled at the 10-yard line. The ball rolled into the end zone, where Williams was waiting to recover it for the score.

The Outlaws scored three of the next four touchdowns in the quarter, leading 35-20 after Derrick Harvey picked up a Kats fumble at the one-yard line and ran it back 49 yards for a score.

Both teams scored once in the third quarter, highlighted by an eight-yard touchdown from Hippeard to Haley, putting the Kats within 11 points (46-35).

The final quarter saw an all-out Kats attack with three touchdowns in the final 5:40. Nashville scored nine points on a nine-yard completion to Ings, a three-point conversion to Irvin, and an interception by Derrick Jones.

With less than 90 seconds remaining, Ings added his second straight touchdown, another nine-yard completion. The Kats failed on the conversion but took a 50-46 advantage.

Billings tried to ruin the Kats’ road party and scored what could have been the game-winning touchdown as Harker found Brown from 29 yards out. Harvey added the conversion, giving Billings a 54-50 lead with 22 seconds remaining.

But the Kats would not fall victim for the third time on the road as Hippeard completed three passes and found Irvin in the end zone with one second remaining to solidify the victory.

Jones led the Kats with 11 tackles, one interception, and a breakup. Ezekiel Rose had two sacks and five tackles.

Nashville finished with 24 first downs and held the ball for 28 minutes compared to Billings, which had just 15 first downs but had possession for over 31 minutes. The Kats once again dominated in the red zone, scoring on 4 of 5 attempts.

Nashville sits idle for the next two weeks before its home finale against the Southwest Kansas Storm on Saturday, June 29, at 4:30 p.m. at the Nashville Municipal Auditorium.