The Tri-Cities Fever fell behind early and could never recover, falling 56-43 to the Sioux Falls Storm on Friday night at Toyota Center.
It was the fourth consecutive loss for the Fever (1-5), as its early-season struggles continue, as well as its inability to breakthrough against the defending Indoor Football League champions.
“We just didn’t execute well enough,” said Fever coach Adam Shackleford. “We fell behind a good team and could dig out of it.”
The Fever has played the Storm (4-2) five times in the past three seasons, including the last two IFL title games. Each time the Storm seem to figure out a way to get past the Fever.
“It took us too long to get going tonight,” Fever defensive back Lionell Singleton said. “It was just a lot of small things that are hurting us.”
The Fever trailed by as many as 20 points in the first half before rallying to close with 44-40 with late in the third quarter. But Sioux Falls had the answer.
Mike Tatum caught a 34-yard touchdown pass from Terrance Bryant to put the Storm back on top 51-40. The Fever got back to 51-43, but could not get a key stop on defense.
“We gave up too many points,” Shackleford said. “Our defense is better than that.”
Dante Warren, in his first start for the Fever, used his legs early to keep the Fever within striking distance, rushing for three first-half touchdowns. In the second half, he said the game slowed down for him and was able to start throwing the ball down field.
“This game moves really fast, and until you are out there you don’t realize how fast it is going,” he said.
Warren rushed for a game-high 123 yards on 19 carries and four touchdowns. He also completed 17 of 29 passes for 193 yards and two touchdowns.
“He played hard,” Shackleford said. “He has just got to do a better job of checking down.”
As it has in the past few weeks, it comes down to the little mistakes. A bad snap here, a defensive breakdown there. And right now all the little mistakes are adding up and have resulted in the Fever’s early-season struggles.
“We are all fighting for our jobs right now,” Shackleford said. “When you are 1-5 you are fighting for your life.”
Steven Whitehead led the Fever with six catches for 106 yards and caught two second-half touchdown passes. And despite outgaining the Storm 304 to 242 yards, it wasn’t enough.
“It’s hard,” Singleton said. “We just have to stay positive and keep working.”
The Fever plays at Green Bay next Saturday.