Fever hits stride against Wyoming

Tri-City HeraldMay 27, 2014 

Whether it makes the Indoor Football League playoffs or not, the Tri-Cities Fever can only control what it does.

That’s what happened on Saturday night, when the Fever blasted the visiting Wyoming Cavalry 94-30 at the Toyota Center.

The victory evened Tri-Cities’ record at 6-6 — with just two regular-season contests remaining: a June 6 road game at Wyoming, and a June 14 home game against the Colorado Ice.

The Ice (8-3) has three games remaining: Friday at Wyoming; June 7 at home against winless Green Bay; and the road game June 14 at Tri-Cities.

In order for the Fever to make the playoffs, it must win it’s remaining games, while the Ice must lose all of its final contests.

That’s a tall order.

“It is what it is,” said Fever coach Adam Shackleford. “We can focus on us.

Without the turnovers and the injuries early in the season, I think we’d have a better team record. We have an opportunity to finish 8-6, and that record would help us do a lot for recruiting in the offseason.

“So our goal is to beat the hell out of Wyoming and Colorado no matter what.”

Fever defensive back Lionell Singleton sees that as the players’ goal.

“I still think that no matter what, we go out and play to best of our ability these last few games,” said Singleton. “We still have got to think about these guys who want to move up to the next level. You never know who is watching us. Another coach. A scout. So you don’t want to slack off.”

That certainly didn’t happen Saturday in the team’s rout of Wyoming.

Tri-Cities was up 35-0 at one point, and outgained Wyoming 291-166 in yards.

The most impressive stat may have been Fever running back Keithon Flemming rushing 13 times for 103 yards and three touchdowns.

Very rarely does an IFL back crack the 100-yard mark in a game.

“I’ve been quiet the last three to four weeks,” said Flemming. “But I’ve been telling my teammates that Saturday night we were going to open some eyes. And we did.

“The offensive line played great. I wasn’t getting touched a lot of times until the second level of defense.”

Shackleford agreed.

“Our guys did a great job up front,” he said.

Shackleford also installed a heavy package, in which backup quarterback Dante Warren comes into the game, starting quarterback Houston Lillard goes out to wide receiver, and a big fella such as offensive lineman Joel McLeod lines up in the backfield.

Warren scored a couple of touchdowns and a some 2-point conversions out of the set. But he also hit Lillard for a 1-yard TD pass.

“(Lillard) liked catching a TD more than throwing them,” joked Shackleford.

Lillard said Warren missed throwing to him two other times.

“I was open all night,” he said. “I told Coach that. He said ‘I know it.’ And I said ‘Throw me the ball.’”

But Lillard is better known in the league for his passing. He had another stellar effort, going 12-for-14 for 122 yards and four TD passes.

“Honestly, I feel like I’m better than I was two years ago,” said Lillard.

“The other day my dad mentioned to me about my completion percentage. I’ve been over 80 percent in three games. I think my decision making is better this season. The game is very slow for me right now. When I first came back this season, it was fast like my rookie year.”

But Lillard is quick to point out the 94-point explosion was a team effort.

“Lionell Singleton returned a kickoff, Brandon Wilson returned an interception for a touchdown,” Lillard said. “We had a bunch of defensive stops, and it was easy to capitalize off of (Wyoming’s) mistakes.”

It’s all made football fun again.

“There are no attitudes,” said Lillard. “People are listening and everybody is on the same page. We’re definitely gelling as a team.”

Singleton said the team wants to finish strong.

“We want to end our season as one of the better teams in the league,” he said. It just may not be enough to make the playoffs.

Notes: Shackleford said kicker Brady Beeson hurt his plant foot in the first half and couldn’t play after halftime. So defensive back Donyae Coleman took over Beeson’s duties in the second half, and he kicked one out of three PAT attempts. “Donyae kicks before practice,” said Shackleford. “If Tre Young was healthy he’d be kicking. I was in a tough spot. Going for 2 points after each touchdown would make it look like we were rubbing it in. I didn’t think it was appropriate.” ... Shackleford sat starter Steven Whitehead after halftime to give new player Mario Washington some playing time at wide receiver. He caught one pass for 6 yards and a score. ... The Fever has this week off before busing to Wyoming next week.

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