Fever focused on Colorado

May 23, 2013 

April 27, 2013 - Tri-Cities Fever defensive back Lionel Singleton keeps his eyes on the ball after breaking up a pass play Friday night in the Wyoming end zone at the Toyota Center.

RICHARD DICKIN — Tri-City Herald Buy Photo

The Tri-Cities Fever could know if it still has a chance to make the Indoor Football League playoffs depending on what happens with the Wyoming at Nebraska game tonight.

If Wyoming wins, the Fever still has a shot at the playoffs.

If Nebraska wins, it’s over.

“We need to win out (our three remaining games), and (Nebraska) needs to lose their (three remaining) games,” said Fever coach Adam Shackleford.

Regardless of what happens, Shackleford is concerned about just one thing: beating Colorado on Saturday night in the Toyota Center. Kickoff is at 7:05 p.m.

Now sporting a 4-7 record, this wasn’t what anybody in the Tri-Cities expected this season from a team that has been in the last two IFL title games.

No one expected the amount of injuries that occurred from the start of the season. No one expected the team to lose so many close games, some of them in the last minute of play.

But Shackleford downplays that.

“We’ve had a handful of injuries, but I’m not going to use that as an excuse,” said Shackleford.

So no matter what happens tonight in Nebraska — whether Wyoming can pull off the upset or not — there is a pride for the Fever finishing out the season strong.

“We want to win those last three games,” Shackleford said.

Colorado coach Heron O’Neal watched his team clinch a playoff berth last Saturday with a 39-35 victory over the Fever in Fort Collins.

With a 7-3 record, O’Neal could rest some of his players and get ready for the postseason. It’s not happening.

“We have four games left,” said O’Neal. “We’re still fighting for the No. 1 seed overall. If we’re fortunate enough to win out, we can still play the championship game here (in Colorado).”

So no one is mailing it in yet.

Dante Warren, the Fever’s rookie quarterback, continues to get better each week.

When he first started a game for Tri-Cities this season, the team was 1-4.

And after losing his first two starts, against Sioux Falls and Green Bay, things have really clicked for him.

“He wasnt ready to start at the beginning of the season,” said Shackleford. “He is by far the most talented IFL-style player to ever come out of here. He’s just a guy that needed game experience to get better.”

O’Neal is a believer.

Last week against the Ice, Warren had 275 yards of total offense — 150 passing with two touchdowns, and 125 more rushing with another score.

“He is a handful, and I know I said it before last week that you just try to contain him,” said O’Neal. “But it’s easier said than done. He’s making plays left and right. He reminds me of (Texas A&M Heismann Trophy-winner) Johnny Manziel.”

Shackleford said he didn’t envision Warren’s play coming along so quickly back in preseason camp.

And now?

“We believe Dante wants to be back here next season,” Shackleford said. “He’s the future of this team.”

That being said, O’Neal made a great call last week on the final play of the game.

The Fever, trailing 39-35, had the ball on the Colorado 11 with 12 seconds remaining in the game.

The Fever came out with a four-receiver formation.

“When I’d I seen it, I second-guessed myself,” said O’Neal. “I told myself I’m gonna go with what I want, so I took a timeout. I was looking at their offensive formation and saw what he was trying to exploit. Then Shack came out with a different formation.”

But O’Neal stuck with just rushing one defender anyway, leaving everyone to lay back and clog the passing lanes.

As Warren scrambled around, time expired, and the last-ditch pass fell incomplete.

Shackleford expects wide receiver Jackie Chambers to play for Tri-Cities on Saturday night.

Chambers was signed last week after he was cut by the Arena Football League’s Spokane Shock. Chambers played half a season with the Fever back in 2011.

Kicker Brady Beeson was also re-signed this week. Beeson was too banged up to play last week and was released. Shackleford signed kicker Dan Kleckner for the road game at Colorado. Kleckner, who lives in Seattle, has a full-time job and is married, couldn’t play every week.

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