KENNEWICK -- Tri-Cities Fever quarterback Houston Lillard admonished coach Adam Shackleford on Monday for even wanting to shave off his playoff beard.
"Playoffs aren't over yet," Lillard said.
"Yes, they are. We're in the championship," Shackleford countered. "I'm shaving today."
As the Fever (13-4) prepares for Saturday's Indoor Football League's United Bowl Championship against the Sioux Falls Storm (15-1) -- kickoff is at 5:05 p.m. in South Dakota -- everyone with Tri-Cities seems to have their superstitions.
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Fever assistant coaches Ryan Lingenfelder and Cleveland Pratt are sporting facial hair.
Fever owner Teri Carr has her game-day shirt ready to go for Saturday.
"The last time I wore another shirt, we lost the game," she said.
And Shackleford? He has a pair of khaki slacks he only wears on game days. Not just this year, but the last few years.
"I am 70-19 in those slacks," he said.
That 70th victory came last Saturday, when his Fever beat the host Allen Wranglers 67-46 for the Intense Conference title.
There were a few things Shackleford didn't like about the game.
"I didn't like some of the calls," he said. "And we made three field goals, but we had the opportunities for scores (touchdowns). We didn't take advantage of that in the first half."
It didn't matter, though, as the Fever seemed to have the game in hand.
"I liked our swarming defense," he said. "Our pass rush by the defensive line was great. And I liked our kickoff coverage. We forced a turnover and had a good game all night."
The Fever, leading 37-33 with 13:29 to go in the third quarter, outscored the Wranglers 30-13 the rest of the way.
"I didn't think we had it won until the last two minutes of the fourth quarter," Fever defensive back Lionell Singleton said. "I've been in situations where you're up 21 points and they come back and win."
Lillard felt more confident.
"At no point in the game did I feel we were going to lose," said Lillard, who tossed seven touchdown passes in the game. "But I knew we clinched it when we scored that last long touchdown pass to Tre Young (45 yards with 5:04 to play, giving Tri-Cities a 64-39 lead).
"You could see it in the arena -- the coaches, the players, the fans -- everybody dropped their heads. And then the defense secured the win."
You might say that. Allen turned the ball over six times -- four interceptions and two fumbles.
"I think we're jelling," Fever defensive back Dwain Crawford said. "We're getting more confident as a unit."
"Defensively, I feel we get better and better each week," he said.
The team will hold a news conference at noon today at the Toyota Center to display its new Intense Conference championship trophy. ... Shackleford believes assistants Lingenfelder and Pratt can be head coaches. "They're both qualified right now," he said. ... Sioux Falls wasn't threatened in Saturday's United Conference championship game against the visiting Green Bay Blizzard, winning 52-12. Storm quarterback Chris Dixon passed for two touchdowns and rushed for two. But the Storm defense was the real star of the game, holding Green Bay's offense to 117 yards.
-- Fever trainer Leo Combs seeks some assistants or interns for the 2012 IFL season.
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