Its time for the Tri-Cities Fever to show last season was an aberration.
That missing the Indoor Football League playoffs was a fluke.
That this team can get its business done.
After a 21-day training camp, the Fever opens its IFL season at 7:05 p.m. today at Toyota Center against the Wyoming Cavalry. And the players have some things they want to accomplish.
We need to play as a team throughout this season, said defensive back Lionell Singleton. I do think we have something to prove after the previous two seasons we went to the championship, then didnt make the playoffs last season.
In opening against Wyoming, the Fever faces a young team with not much indoor football experience.
I dont know what Ive got, said Wyoming coach Ryan Lingenfelder, who was the Fever defensive coordinator two seasons ago. We havent seen any turf during camp, and weve only had eight practices in 14 days.
Its been anywhere from minus 10 degrees to minus 25 in Casper during that time frame.
Weve had a few practices outside where it was 5 degrees out there, said Lingenfelder. Im really not focused on Tri-Cities. Were kind of still in evaluation mode.
Shackleford isnt taking Lingenfelders bait.
Our veterans understand that Coach L is a good coach and hell have them prepared for the game, Shackleford said. We want to force one of their young quarterbacks to turn the ball over.
We need to play well early on offense and keep the crowd into the game, he continued. Weve got to be able to run the football. This is not a team you want hanging around.
Meanwhile, the Fever is stocked with veterans throughout the lineup, but especially on defense.
Besides Singleton, others back in the secondary are Dustin Bell, Donyae Coleman, Rudell Crim and Dennis Rogan.
Boris Lee mans the linebacker position.
Brandon Rankin and Brandon Wilson will see time on the defensive line again.
On offense, Dante Warren returns at quarterback, and so does his backup, Andre Broadous.
Ed Berry, Jackie Chambers, D.A. Allen and DeJuan Miller are back at receiver.
Keithon Flemming will get the majority of touches at running back.
Veteran Andrew Faaumu anchors the offensive line.
Kicker Brady Beeson also returns.
New to the roster are DL Pablo Garcia, LB Tyler Holmes, OL/DL Will Lawrence, OL Joel McCleod, OL Sean McDonald, WR Harry Peoples, and DB Quinton Richardson.
But even with all of that experience, the Fever must still play the games, said Singleton.
And not knowing who the other teams players are is a scary thing, he said. You do not know what theyre going to do. You dont take them lightly.
Especially if this team wants to return to the league championship game.
Notes: Shackleford wont have to make a decision on which 20 players out of the 24 on the roster he can suit up until one hour before kickoff tonight. ... A bright side for Lingenfelder: Whichever young quarterback he starts tonight Sam Durley (Eurkea College) or Chris Ware (Eastern Oregon) has little more experience at the position. Last year in camp my quarterbacks had a total of four college starts under their belts, he said. This year Ive got 82 college starts. ... There are a few veterans back from the Cavs, including OL Walter Stuller and LB Bruna Foster. Foster had some strong defensive performances last season against the Fever. ... The final Fever cuts this week included RB Jay Finley and DL John Henderson. Shackleford also officially released Fever veterans who never reported: RB Keola Antolin, OL Keshawn Carrington, DL Malcolm Riley, WR Steven Whitehead, OL Trevon Williams, and WR Tre Young.