Fever coach Shackleford happy with team's progress

March 20, 2013 

The Tri-Cities Fever left head coach Adam Shackleford almost satisified after last Friday’s 44-31 home-opening victory over the Nebraska Danger.

Almost.

“We had a turnover late in the fourth quarter,” Shackleford said. “When we had a chance to put them away, we throw an interception.”

But other than that, Shackleford — with his team suffering a rash of injuries to open the Indoor Football League season in the 42-38 loss March 1 at Colorado — was pretty happy with his team.

“We kept our composure,” he said. “We still played hard from behind, and unlike two weeks before when we had an opportunity to go up two scores, we took advantage of it this time.”

That was the team Shackleford thought he would have this season.

“This is a team that plays that hard and well,” Shackleford said. “I thought that could happen when I saw this team in training camp.”

It’s just a matter of keeping this team healthy.

Now, with a 1-1 record and headed to Dallas for a Friday night game against the Texas Revolution (0-2), Shackleford already has decided to violate one of his own self-imposed rules: keeping more than one running back on the roster.

At the end of training camp, Shackleford decided to keep rookie Keola Antolin on the roster, and he released veteran Keithon Flemming.

In his offensive system, Shackleford only needs one running back.

In the opener against Colorado, Antolin had 75 yards combined in rushing and receiving yards, and he scored three touchdowns. But somewhere during the game, he broke a bone in his hand.

Shackleford was able to sign Flemming before the game against Nebraska, and the fast running back made several key plays, had 68 yards in rushing and receiving combined, and scored a touchdown.

With Antolin scheduled to be activated in the middle of April, it looks like Shackleford might have a decision to make.

But no.

“Flemming was pretty darn impressive against Nebraska,” the coach said. “We have two good running backs now. At the end of the day it’s not gonna be a problem. I’ve decided to keep both.”

Shackleford also signed two wide receivers this week, both cut from the Arena Football League’s Spokane Shock, in D.A. Allen and Rashad Mason.

Mason, a 6-foot-6, 230-pounder out of the University of North Carolina, “catches everything,” said Shackleford.

And Allen — at 6-feet, 180 pounds out of Southwest Baptist University — reminds Shackleford of current Fever receiver Ed Berry in the way he runs routes and catches the football.

“In three days, Allen has already figured out our offense,” Shackleford said.

Neither Allen nor Mason will suit up for Friday night’s game, but they give Tri-Cities seven receivers on its roster. That’s too many.

“The guys who are playing will need to step it up Friday night,” Shackleford said. “We are going to get that number down to five soon.”

To make room for the two receivers, the Fever released reciever Ryan Lincoln and offensive lineman Tavaris Jeffries.

Even with the loss of Jeffries, the Fever still has four offensive linemen: starters Keshawn Carrington, Ryan Tolar and Trevon Williams; and backup Andrew Faaumu. In addition, defensive lineman Shane McCord has played on the O-line in the past when needed.

That Fever offensive line has allowed just one sack of quarterback Kasey Peters through two games.

“This is the best offensive line I’ve had since I’ve been here,” Shackleford said. “They’ve handled anybody who has come their way.”

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