The Tri-Cities Fever now has an opponent for Friday night’s Intense Conference Championship, set for 7:05 p.m. in the Toyota Center: the Wichita Wild.
Wild kicker James Chandler kicked a 52-yard field goal with 24 seconds remaining to give the Wild a 43-40 lead against the host Allen Wranglers on Monday night.
Yet Wichita (9-6) still had to put together a defensive stop against the Wranglers (9-6), who moved the football down to the 8-yard line in the waning seconds.
But Wild defensive back Kendrick Harper thwarted that drive when he intercepted David Knighton’s pass into the end zone to end the game.
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“It was the nicest pick I’ve seen all year,” said Fever coach Adam Shackleford, who along with his coaching staff and some of his players were watching the game at Jackson’s in Richland. “(Harper) was running to his left and intercepted the pass with his right hand.”
Shackleford and assistants Ryan Lingenfelder and Cleveland Pratt were planning to stay up all night to break down Wichita game film, come up with a game plan, then present it to the players this afternoon when the team meets for practice.
The Fever started game plans for both Allen and Wichita.
“We all thought we might play Wichita,” Shackleford said.
One thing Shackleford noticed was that the Wild plays very hard for head coach Morris Lolar.
“They’re a scary football team,” said Shackleford. “They can run the football with Tywon Hubbard. That coach gets them to play so hard.”
In fact, the Fever coaching staff believes — outside of the unbeaten Sioux Falls Storm — Wichita just might be the hottest team in the Indoor Football League.
After dropping its first four contests, the Wild has now won nine of its last 11 games.
“They’ve been on the road and they’ve won on the road,” said Shackleford. “They are not going to be bothered by turning around now and coming here.”
Close call: When the Fever trailed the visiting Colorado Ice 31-13 late in the second half of Friday’s first-round playoff game, Shackleford said he wasn’t shocked.
“We just dug ourselves a hole,” he said. “I knew we’d get out of it if we made some plays.”
That’s what happened.
In the span of 30 seconds:
Defensive lineman Jake Killeen intercepted a pass.
Quarterback Houston Lillard hit Tre Young on a 12-yard touchdown pass.
Deleon Gause recovered a Brady Beeson onside kick.
Lillard hit Steven Whitehead for a 10-yard TD strike, and Beeson kicked the extra point.
Just like that, the Fever trailed the Ice 31-26 at intermission.
“We scored two touchdowns in 27 seconds,” said Shackleford. “It was big. It was at the point that if we don’t get both of those, I’m not sure what the attitude is at halftime. We knew we had to be six points better in the second half.”
The Fever went on to win 52-42.
Shackleford was pleased with the play of DL Darius Collins, LB Frantz Joseph and Gause.
“Those guys just stuck out to me,” he said. “I also thought (new OL) Chris Rutledge played very well for his first game. I thought (WR) Eddie Berry played a great game.”
Tolar: OL Ryan Tolar could be ready to play Friday night. The Pasco High grad missed last week’s game as he recovers from a staph infection on his arm.
Attendance: The announced attendance for last week’s game was 2,364.
That’s not ideal, but Fever owner Teri Carr said “it was a loud 2,364. That was impressive. We were just watching the game film this morning, and just listening on film it was really loud.”
Carr said fans were buying a lot of tickets Monday for this week’s game, and she hopes there is a bigger crowd for it.
“We’ve never hosted two playoff games in a row,” she said. “It’s a great problem to have. The playoffs could be a positive thing for a home team to potentially make extra revenue. As in case of last game, I’m not sure that happened. But I would rather host it.”