As the Tri-Cities Fever prepares for today’s road game at Intense Conference rival Colorado, the Fever players know they’ve already clinched home-field advantage for the first two rounds of the playoffs.
That piece of news was made official by the Indoor Football League officials this week after doing the math.
Even if the Fever (10-2) was to lose its final two regular-season games, and the Ice (8-4) was to win its final two — forcing a tie for first — Tri-Cities is the No. 1 seed.
That’s because the first tiebreaker is head to head, and the Fever and Ice would split their two games. The second tiebreaker, though, is opponents’ victories. The Fever comes out way ahead for playing Sioux Falls (11-0) twice.
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“So if Sioux Falls runs the table, that gives us 28 wins right there in the tiebreaker,” said Fever coach Adam Shackleford, whose team plays at 6:05 p.m. today.
It means the Fever’s first playoff game will be June 22 at the Toyota Center.
But there’s no way Shackleford and his team want to enter the postseason with two more losses.
“No, we want to win both games,” Shackleford said. “We’re not resting people, and we’re playing our butts off.”
As a matter of fact, Shackleford is still tweaking the roster.
Not only did he cut kicker Michael Taylor after last Saturday’s 73-72 overtime loss to Sioux Falls — and then signed kicker Brady Beeson — but this week he signed linebacker Frantz Joseph and released offensive lineman Roddrell Stewart.
Joseph is a 6-3, 240-pounder out of Florida Atlantic University.
“We had the opportunity to sign Joseph, and he’s a guy we’ve been chasing for some time,” Shackleford said. “He’s been with the Oakland Raiders, Edmonton in the CFL, and the Hartford Colonials in the United Football League.”
With the loss of Stewart, the Fever is down to just three regular offensive lineman: Anthony McNac, Will Falakiseni and Ryan Tolar.
“(Defensive lineman) Shane McCord is our fourth offensive lineman,” Shackleford said. “He’s been practicing on both sides of the ball for eight weeks now.”
Releasing Stewart also means that Tolar, a Pasco High graduate who also works as an insurance agent, is here to stay. Shackleford is extremely impressed with him, too.
“He went to Farmers (Insurance) University the week we played Sioux Falls,” Shackleford said. “He didn’t practice one day before that game, and he played well. There is not one thing that I don’t like about him.”
For tonight’s game, the Fever will have to contain Colorado quarterback Jeremy Sanders, who has started the Ice’s last two games and helped open up Colorado’s offense.
“Sanders is talented,” Shackleford said. “I talked to him a couple of years ago about coming here and playing. I don’t think anybody was taking him seriously as a quarterback.”
To beat Colorado, the Fever must contain Sanders.
“We’ve got to stop the run and force him to throw down field,” Shackleford said. “If we do that, I think we’ll be OK. Offensively, we have to have no stupid turnovers.”