As the Indoor Football League regular season winds down, the Tri-Cities Fever might be playing the best of any of the league’s nine franchises.
Unfortunately, the 1-6 start left the Fever in a deep hole it could never get out of to make the playoffs.
So what’s left is pride, and on Saturday night at the Toyota Center — in front of 3,283 fans — the Fever was dominant in a 33-6 IFL victory over the Wyoming Cavalry.
“We’re all men,” said Fever linebacker Boris Lee. “We’ve played the game for years and years. It’s all about being a man, about finishing the game and looking yourself in the mirror, knowing you did your job.”
Lee and his defensive teammates definitely did their jobs, forcing seven Cavalry turnovers that turned into three touchdowns.
“It was seven?” asked Wyoming head coach Ryan Lingenfelder, the Fever’s former defensive coordinator. “After three, I stopped counting.”
In fact, the Fever had a shutout for 59 minutes and 6.8 seconds. Only when Wyoming backup quarterback Stephen Panasuk connected with Mark Henderson for a 32-yard touchdown pass with 53.2 seconds remaining was the shutout averted.
“It’s tough to do in this league,” said Fever coach Adam Shackleford. “I thought they would score in the fourth quarter. But it’s a pretty darn good defensive performance.”
It was led by Tri-Cities defensive back Rudell Crim, who picked off three passes alone.
“I have never had a game with three interceptions before,” said Crim. “We wanted to come out here tonight and have fun. They tried to pound the ball on us early, so the secondary worked on stopping the pass routes, and we stuck together.”
In fact, Wyoming used plenty of ball control, moving the ball on the ground from the start.
The opening drive lasted almost 10 minutes for the Cavalry. But Cavs quarterback Brendan Crawford fumbled the snap at the Tri-City 2, and Fever defensive back Dennis Rogan recovered it in the end zone for a touchback.
That’s how it went all night.
Wyoming, which drops to 1-12, had possession of the football for 45 minutes.
But when Tri-Cities needed to score, it did it quickly.
Fever quarterback Dante Warren had two TD passes and ran in for another, while Keithon Flemming and Keola Antolin each rushed for another.
The victory gives Tri-Cities a 6-7 record, with a road game next Saturday at Nebraska to finish the season.
“I feel like we’ve played well,” said Shackleford. “We haven’t earned the right to put ourselves with the playoff teams because we won’t make it. But it’s important for these guys to get to .500.”