Fever turns 10: Part 8

February 25, 2014 

Editor’s note: When the Tri-Cities Fever opens its Indoor Football League season at home against the Wyoming Cavalry on Friday, it will mark the franchise’s 10th campaign. Over a 10-day period, the Herald is looking at the top 10 moments and top 10 players in franchise history. Today is No. 3:

No. 3 moment

Before the 2005 Tri-Cities Fever could play for any National Indoor Football League title, the team had to get through the Everett Hawks in the playoffs. No easy task, considering Everett was 15-0 at the time.

The Fever had opened the playoffs by going on the road and pulling out a 49-46 win over the Wyoming Fever.

But against Everett, the Fever had already lost twice during the regular season – 64-62 in Everett and 72-55 in Kennewick.

But in early July at the Everett Events Center, the Fever (10-5 at the time) jumped out to a 21-0 lead. This was Everett, though, and the Hawks came back.

When Fever quarterback Doug Coleman took a hit (at the time, they thought he broke a rib) and had to leave the game in the third quarter, things looked grim.

Backup quarterback Tali Ena, a Prosser High grad who played at Washington State, came in to run the offense. To give him some confidence, the Fever kept running the football. And when Paris Moore scored from 2 yards out, it gave Tri-Cities a 51-38 lead with 8:17 left to play.

Hawks quarterback Albert Higgs – who gave up three interceptions to the Fever defense during the game, all eventually turning into TDs – suddenly got hot.

He passed for two touchdowns over the final 8 minutes, including a 5-yarder to Cory Grow with 9.7 seconds remaining to give Everett a 52-51 lead.

But on the ensuing kickoff, Jarvis Dunn returned the ball to the Fever 17 yard-line, running to the wall on the right side to put the ball on the right hashmark.

That left Drew Dunning, the Fever’s kicker, a 41-yarder with barely a second left in the game.

The former WSU kicker was calm and collected, and wasn’t even thinking about Everett. What was he thinking about instead?

“USC actually,” he told the Herald. “This was really loud here. But I’ve played at USC, the Rose Bowl, Ohio State.”

Jeremy Bohannan, a Fever defensive back who played at Richland High and with Dunning at WSU, said he too was thinking about Dunning’s USC kick while standing on the sideline.

And when Dunning’s kick sailed through the uprights as time expired, giving the Fever a 54-52 upset playoff win, Bohannan and his teammates raced out on the field to tackle Dunning in celebration.

“I thought we were gonna run out on the field like we did at USC and celebrate,” said Bohannan. “I guess we did.”

No. 3 player

Quarterback Houston Lillard

Lillard joined the Fever as a little-used backup for the first part of the 2010 IFL season.

But when starter Andy Collins got hurt at midseason, head coach Adam Shackleford went with the rookie, who led the team to the playoiffs.

But it was in 2011 and 2012 that the young quarterback made a name for himself, leading the Fever to the IFL championship game, the United Bowl, in both those seasons.

He was a second-team All-IFL selection at quarterback in both those seasons.

It’s not until you take a look at his numbers over those three seasons that you understand how big Lillard was for the Fever.

He played in 46 games and completed 746 passes out of 1,192 attempts for 7,763 yards. He had 186 touchdown passes against just 42 interceptions.

That’s a pretty impressive body of work.

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