The Tri-Cities Fever and the Colorado Ice have had such long preseason training camps that players from both teams are ready to hit someone in a different uniform.
Theyll get their wish tonight as the Fever visit the Ice in Loveland, Colo., in their Indoor Football League opener.
While the players are ready to strap on the pads, there are a lot of questions that need to be answered, too.
Eighteen of the 25 guys on our roster are new guys, Ice coach Heron ONeal said.
Fever coach Adam Shackleford is in the same boat 14 of his 25 players havent played in the IFL.
Tri-Cities quarterback Kasey Peters is considered a veteran, having been on the Fever roster last season as a rookie. But he spent the entire season as Houston Lillards backup.
Kasey as a starting quarterback, he is a rookie, Shackleford said. He had a really good camp. Both of them (Dante Warren is the Fever backup) did. Kasey was more comfortable out there. He got guys in and out of the huddle faster.
ONeal saw Peters play in college at Rocky Mountain College in Billings (Mont.) numerous times when he was the head coach of the Billings Outlaws.
Were gonna have our hands full with Kasey, ONeal said. He is an animal. Ive seen this man play. Peters said he is ready.
It was frustrating not getting to play last year, Peters said. But spending a year behind Houston Lillard and working with Coach Shackleford has helped me a lot.
Peters will be going up against a strong Colorado secondary led by veterans Jovan Jackson and Michael Eby two IFL veterans who played for ONeal in Billings.
Both of these guys have solidified our secondary, ONeal said. I am ecstatic to get those two guys.
Both teams will spend some time feeling each other out at the beginning of the contest, then adjust on the fly.
Shackleford, to keep the new players from being shocked at the speed of the indoor game, expects to run the ball early.
Make it like the outdoors game for them a little, if you know what I mean, he said.
Both teams might do that.
I dont think either team can afford to be pass happy, Shackleford said. Their quarterback (veteran Willie Copeland) has more experience, but I still think the running backs have to be involved in this game. I feel we have our best secondary since Ive been here. Youre going to have to run the football against us to have success.
For Colorado, that running back would be veteran Cordera Eason.
For the Fever, rookie Keola Antolin, from the University of Arizona, knocked Shacklefords socks off during camp. He had to in order for Shackleford to cut veteran Keithon Flemming who played last season for the Allen Wranglers this week.
I only keep one running back, Shackleford said. Antolin is extremely explosive. He just has that extra gear. Hes good at catching the football.
That move shocked ONeal.
I wasnt expecting to see that one at all, he said.
So heres whats going to be keys for tonights game:
Establish the run, Shackleford said.
We have to win the turnover battle, ONeal said. You cant beat Coach Shackleford if youre turning the ball over.
And limit big plays on defense, Shackleford added.
Finally, whose new guys are going to be the first to respond?
Thatll be about 70 percent of things, ONeal said. How these young guys play.
For some of the veterans, theyll be paying attention.
Im pretty excited about this year, said Fever receiver Steven Whitehead. Im pretty excited about (tonights) game, and to see who responds. Who is gonna be a gamer.
Notes: Shacklefords final cuts in camp were Flemming, OL Brian Folkerts, DL Vaalyn Jackson and DB Dennis Rogan. Rogan hasnt reported to camp, but may soon. WR DeJuan Miller has been put on short-term injured reserve. ... Besides tonights Fever at Ice game, the Texas Revolution visits the Cedar Rapids Titans. On Saturday, the Green Bay Blizzard visits the Chicago Slaughter, and the Sioux Falls Storm travels to the Nebraska Danger. ... Tonights game can be heard on KONA 610 AM. The team will have a viewing party at Jack-sons in Richland.