KENNEWICK -- Nice bounce back.
The Tri-Cities Fever, after suffering a bump in the road on its way to the Indoor Football League playoffs last week in Alaska, righted itself Saturday night with an 80-10 rout of the visiting Wenatchee Valley Venom in front of 3,300 fans at the Toyota Center.
With the victory, the Fever clinched a playoff berth and have a record of 8-2. Tri-Cities now sits atop the Pacific Division of the Intense Conference.
"We had a good game tonight," said Fever coach Adam Shackleford, who was suffering with a cold and a real fever. "I'm proud of the way the guys played."
Last week, the Fever went to Fairbanks and lost 58-20 to the Grizzlies.
The Fever bounced back this week with a great series of practices, and it broke open a tight 14-7 lead by scoring 66 unanswered points.
The game was never in doubt, and at halftime -- holding a 45-7 lead -- Shackleford challenged his team.
"I challenged them to play the second half as they did the first half," he said. "Think of it as 0-0. Because someone (a scout) is always watching you play."
It worked to perfection.
"I couldn't have scripted this better," said Fever defensive back Lionell Singleton, who returned an interception 50 yards for a touchdown and led the team with nine tackles. "I think we were really focused this week."
Singleton was just one of many stars for the Fever defense, which forced four Venom turnovers in the first half that were turned into 28 points.
"As I've said before, our defense is the backbone to this team," Shackleford said. "Because of it, the pressure is not on our offense to score on every possession."
But the offense did anyway: In 10 offensive possessions, Tri-Cities scored nine touchdowns and one Gary Cismesia field goal of 40 yards.
Fever quarterback Houston Lillard had 181 yards of passing and seven TD passes.
"I think getting back to work was the big thing," said Lillard. "As soon as we got back on the plane (in Alaska) we started preparing for this week. We wanted to come out early and set the tone.
"And the defense, they be swarmin'. The defense made a lot of big plays."
It might be easier to run a small roll call of standouts on both sides of the ball for Tri-Cities:
* Linebacker Jason Beauchamp, who had five tackles, one QB sack, two forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries, and a couple of nasty, hard hits -- one that knocked his own helmet off.
* Defensive lineman Christopher Lyles, who had five tackles, three for losses (two QB sacks), and two forced fumbles.
* Dennis Rogan, who returned a missed field goal attempt 58 yards for a touchdown.
* Steven Whitehead, who only had one pass reception for seven yards, but he stepped in ably at running back for Dennis Kennedy (out with a sprained ankle) and rushed for 57 yards -- including a dazzling 23-yard touchdown scamper.
* Receiver Tre Young, who did most of his damage early, catching three TD passes from Lillard.
* Receiver Justin Jarvis, making his debut with the Fever, catching three passes for 50 yards and two TDs.
* And Joey Hew Len, who did his damage in the second half, catching three TD passes and a total of five passes for 126 yards.
It was, as Beauchamp said, a total team effort.
"I think we kind of challenged ourselves as a team to prove who we are," said Beauchamp. "That was a horrible loss (at Fairbanks). The key is we bounced back."
NOTES: The game was delayed 15 minutes when Venom receiver Everett Roberts and Fever DB Rogan ran after an overthrown pass, hit the sideboards and went into the stands, landing on a fan who was injured. The fan was taken away on a stretcher by paramedics. ... Venom DB Ray Little, who played last season for the Fever, was ejected in the first quarter for throwing a punch. ... The Fever now have two big games over the next few weeks -- Friday at Colorado, and May 28 at home vs. Fairbanks.