The tailspin continued for the Tri-Cities Fever on Friday night in a 36-34 Indoor Football League loss on the road to the Wyoming Cavalry.
The Fever, down 36-20 in the fourth quarter, rallied behind backup quarterback Dante Warren — and an interception and return for a touchdown by Lionell Singleton — to close within two points at 36-34.
But Fever kicker Brady Beeson’s game-winning field goal attempt was tipped by a Cavalry defender, giving Wyoming and head coach Ryan Lingenfelder their first IFL victory of the season.
The loss drops the Fever to 1-4, and has Tri-Cities head coach Adam Shackleford searching for some answers.
“We’re going home right now (on the bus) and get ready to play Sioux Falls (next Friday),” Shackleford told the Herald after the game. “I don’t have any answers tonight. But instead of going home to see my wife and kids in Spokane, I’ll be staying in the Tri-Cities and getting to work on some answers.”
One answer for Shackleford came in the second half, when he decided to lift starting quarterback Kasey Peters in favor of Warren.
The 6-foot, 200-pounder from the University of South Dakota was given the reins to the offense at the start of the fourth quarter.
Up to that point, Tri-Cities was only 2-for-7 on converting touchdowns inside the Red Zone — although two drives were killed by bad snaps in the shotgun formation by center Keshawn Carrington.
“Someone was yelling our cadence,” Shackleford said. “It took us a few series, but we fixed it.”Lingenfelder said those were key turning points.
With Warren inserted into the lineup, he moved the Fever downfield and scored on a 2-yard dive. He then hit George Bell for a 2-point conversion, and with 7:33 remaining in the game the Fever trailed 36-28.
Singleton’s pick and touchdown came on the ensuing series, but Warren couldn’t convert the 2-point run. And with 6:33 remaining, the Cavalry still led 36-34.
Warren couldn’t get the Fever into the end zone the rest of the game, but he did enough that Shackleford called him the starter for next week’s game against Sioux Falls.
“Guys are wide open, and Kasey is not seeing them,” said Shackleford. “Kasey missed a guy wide open on 4th and 2.
“It’s a shame our offense is struggling, because the way our defense has been playing we should have a better record,” Shackleford continued.
For Lingenfelder — who was the Fever’s defensive coordinator the last two seasons — the victory was made much sweeter by defeating Shackleford.
“Shack congratulated me after the game,” Lingenfelder said. “He and (Fever owner) Teri (Carr) and Coach (Cleveland) Pratt all came up to me afterwards and congratulated me.”
Niceties aside, the win was a big step forward for Lingenfelder’s squad, which has 18 rookies on the 25-man roster.
“This is gonna go a long ways toward practice next week, and the guys continue to gel,” he said. “They never got down on each other during the game.”
Wyoming quarterback Barney O’Donnell had 154 yards passing and five TD passes. Receivers Maurice Patterson and Troy Evans each had five catches for 51 yards and two touchdowns.
Ed Berry caught five passes for 57 yards for the Fever.
Tri-Cities’ top receiver, Steven Whitehead, didn’t make the trip as he rested a knee injury.