Before the season began, tonight’s scheduled Wyoming Cavalry at Tri-Cities Fever Indoor Football League game might have been promoted as a homecoming game for Ryan Lingenfelder.
The former Fever defensive coordinator took the head coaching position in the offseason for the Cavalry.
But today’s 7:05 p.m. kickoff in the Toyota Center has become more important than that.
With the Cavalry sporting a 1-5 record, and the Fever at a dismal 1-6, this game is more about who can get their season jump-started.
“That Lingenfelder-Shackleford story is great for the fans,” said Fever coach Adam Shackleford. “But we need a win.”
So does Lingenfelder.
“I’m intrigued to see how the crowd reacts to me, but also how it reacts to the Fever,” said Lingenfelder. “Tri-Cities has the same record as we do, as in we each have one win. I’m interested in how this all shakes out.”
The Cavalry got its only victory this season against the Fever, a 36-34 verdict April 5 in Casper.
The Fever’s lone win came in the Toyota Center on March 15, with a 44-31 victory over the Nebraska Danger.
Whoever comes out on top tonight, it will start with the quarterback.
“It’s going to be how the quarterbacks execute the game plan,” said Lingenfelder. “For my quarterback (Barney O’Donnell), it’s where he throws the right ball. For whoever starts for Tri-Cities, it’s how they execute with their feet. Thgeir feet make our defensive schemes difficult. I think it comes down to the quarterbacks’ play.”
For the Fever, the starter will be Dante Warren.
“Look at his numbers in his first two games,” said Shackleford. “He’s as good, if not better, than anyone I’ve ever had at quarterback in their first two games.”
But Theo Scott, signed a couple weeks ago, will be ready as the backup.Shackleford needs his team to convert for scores when it gets close to the end zone.
“We have to score in the Red Zone,” he said. “And we have been getting better. We need to win the special teams battle. And we’ve got to put heat on their quarterback.”
O’Donnell is fast and caused the Fever defense fits last time the two teams met.
“I think he’s scrappy,” said Shackleford of O’Donnell. “He’s a scrambler.”
To that end, he’ll also need a good effort from his Fever defense tonight.
“On defense, we have to make stops,” said Shackleford. “We have to find a way to get ourselves off of the field.”
Tri-Cities loses defensive back Gary Wilburn this week. Wilburn signed a month ago with the Canadian Football League’s Calgary Stampeders. But he elected to stay with Tri-Cities until it was time to go to Canada.
That time has come.
In his place, Shackleford has signed wide receiver Bobby Guillory, who was released last week.
Another familiar face will be on the field tonight.
Last week, Shackleford released lineman Shane McCord.
But Lingenfelder picked him up.
“I’ve always liked Shane McCord,” said Lingenfelder. “I have a hole on the offensive line. I have three of them and I want four. Shane has the experience of being a swingman and can play both sides of the ball.”
Notes: Warren ranks sixth in the IFL, averaging 45.6 rushing yards per game Fever WR Steven Whitehead ranks fifth in the league with 34 receptions Fever DB Lionell Singleton is tied for first in the IFL with five interceptions. He also ranks fifth in tackles with 55.