The long dryspell is over.
Forty-two days after the Tri-Cities Fever picked up its first victory of the season, it earned its second of the Indoor Football League.
Quarterback Dante Warren passed for 177 yards and five touchdowns as the Fever pulled away in the second half for a 57-31 win over the Wyoming Cavalry on Friday night in the Toyota Center.
“It feels good to get a win,” said Warren, who is 1-2 as a starter for Tri-Cities. “Not only for me, but for the whole team.”
The whole team, in fact, played well this game.
After a rough start, in which Wyoming quarterback Stephen Panasuk connected with speedy wideout Troy Evans for touchdown passes of 21 and 24 yards, the Tri-Cities defense settled down.
“The difference tonight was the want to play well,” said Fever linebacker Boris Lee, who led the team with eight tackles. “The defensive unit needed to understand that we needed to play for each other. Last week (at Green Bay), our offense showed up, but our defense didn’t.”
On Friday, the defense showed up. Now, it didn’t hurt when Wyoming didn’t have Barney O’Donnell — who helped lead the Cavs to their only win of the season, a 36-34 decision over the Fever on April 5 — dressed.
Cavalry coach Ryan Lingenfelder cut him last Saturday.
“He broke team rules,” was all Lingenfelder would say. “Obviously I tried to hide the transaction until after this game. But I’m working on a trade with another IFL team to sign a quarterback.”
Lingenfelder, the Fever’s defensive coordinator the last two seasons, used backup Panasuk as a starter and it paid off with the two long TD passes.
“Once we found out that O’Donnell wasn’t here, we pinned our ears back and went after their quarterback,” said Fever coach Adam Shackleford. “(Lingenfelder) was challenging the guys he used to coach. They got a couple of TDs on us, so we started using some zone coverage, and I think that confused their quarterback.”
The result was three interceptions by the Fever defense.
But with the Fever holding a tight 20-16 lead at intermission, it became Warren’s turn to shine.
Tri-Cities scored on all three of its offensive possessions in the third quarter: a 28-yard TD pass to Steven Whitehead; a 22-yard scoring strike to DeJuan Miller; and a 1-yard rushing plunge by Tre Young.
Warren started seeing things better.
“Their safeties were jumping up on the short routes, and we took advantage of that by going long,” said Warren. “Then they would go back on their heels and we would hit them with short passes.”
All the Cavalry could muster in the quarter was a 39-yard Josiah Powell field goal.
By the end of the quarter, the Fever had an insurmountable 41-19 lead.
“We haven’t come out of the half like that all season,” said Shackleford. “I think everybody on the team has bought in with Warren.”
“I’d like to think so,” said Warren. “We just need to come here every week and work hard.”
Lingenfelder was disappointed that his team didn’t answer the bell in the second half.
“I think a woe-is-me attitude came over us,” he said. “Of the 21 guys I have on this roster, 17 are rookies. And we can’t have the woe-is-me attitude.”
Whitehead once again had a strong game, catching five passes for 68 yards., while Young added two catches for 60 yards. Running back Keithon Flemming had another good game with 62 total yards of offense.
But stats aside, every Fever player was just happy to get a victory. More of those are needed if the team hopes to make the IFL playoffs, especially with a 2-6 record.
“Pretty much every game from here on out is a playoff game,” said Lee. “We dug ourselves such a holke that we have to win every game left.”