Fever fall to Cedar Rapids 63-43

April 5, 2014 

It took Houston Lillard 45 minutes and 41 seconds to get his first touchdown pass of the season Saturday night.

Unfortunately by then, the visiting Cedar Rapids Titans had their Indoor Football League contest well in hand over the host Tri-Cities Fever, winning 63-43.

Lillard, the standout quarterback who led the Fever to the IFL title game in 2011 and 2012, was signed last week to see if he could get Tri-Cities out of a 1-3 tailspin.

It just didn’t happen Saturday night, but that didn’t surprise him or Fever coach Adam Shackleford.

“I just need more timing, for real,” said Lillard, who tossed two TD passes in the game, both 45-yarders to Oliver Young and Harry Peoples. “(The game) was fast in the first quarter, but I was confident. As long as we can carry some positive things out of this, we’ll be OK.”

Shackleford had no illusions coming into this contest against the Titans (5-1).

“We went into the game with the idea he wasn’t the same guy from 2012 … yet,” said Shackleford.

The head coach was more concerned about his defense, which couldn’t stop Cedar Rapids quarterback Spencer Ohm at all in the second half.

The Titans had five offensive series over the final two quarters, and scored TDs on all of them.

Shackleford had wanted his unit to concentrate on stopping the league’s leading rusher, LaRon Council, and let Ohm try to beat them.

That’s what happened.

He tossed three TD passes and scored on two more runs himself.

“Spencer has been getting better and better,” said Cedar Rapids coach Mark Stoute. “If they’re going to sit in there and pack the box, we’ll go over the top. We’re running an NFL-style offense and we’re reading what the defense is doing. It’s very tough to stop us right now.”

Shackleford promised not to sit pat after this game.

“The reality of it is, it’s time to make some changes,” he said. “Some guys are just too comfortable here. The defense didn’t make any plays.”

Ohm broke things open for the Titans on the game’s first play, scoring on a 35-yard touchdown run for a quick Cedar Rapids 7-0 lead.

The Titans never trailed the rest of the first half.

Still, it was a familiar story in the first half, as Tri-Cities dug itself a quick hole, down 15-3 after the first quarter.

Lillard, meanwhile, spent the entire first half shaking the game rust off of him.

He did a good job looking off his first and sometimes his second reads to take what the Titans defense was giving him.

Unfortunately, it resulted in just one Tri-Cities touchdown – an 8-yard Keithon Flemming run that was set up by great misdirection. While the entire Fever offensive unit went left on the snap, Lillard handed Flemming the ball going the opposite way.

With the Titans defense all going with the rest of the Fever offense, Flemming went in untouched to cut the Cedar Rapids lead to 18-13 with 2:47 to play in the second quarter.

Lillard could move the offense down the field, but was having trouble getting the ball into the end zone once the offense had the ball at the Titans 10 or closer.

Four times, Tri-Cities’ offense had the ball in the Red Zone, and only once could the Fever come up with a touchdown.

But Brady Beeson, the team’s kicker, helped soften the blow with three field goals – of  20, 25 and 24 yards – to keep the game close.

Cedar Rapids kicker Rockne Belmonte had three of his own field goals in the first half, including a 29-yarder as time expired, to give the Titans a 21-16 halftime lead.

As for Lillard, he’ll get more comfortable in the coming weeks.

“We really only practiced three times this week,” he admitted.

Stoute understands.

“Lillard is a good quarterback,” said Stoute. “I’m just glad we played him this week rather than next week. He’ll be a different quarterback next week.”


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