The Indoor Football League playoffs begin next week with two contests. But before those can be played, there is the matter of finishing the regular season, which ends tonight.
The Tri-Cities Fever (6-7) travels to play the Nebraska Danger (9-4) at 5 p.m. today.
For the Fever, it’s a chance to finish the season with a .500 record at 7-7. It’s a small consolation for not making the playoffs.
For the Danger, there’s a chance it could play host to the league championship game in a couple weeks. Nebraska has already clinched a first-round playoff home game against the Colorado Ice next week.
But Danger coach Mike Davis wants more.
“We’re still going to approach this game by wanting to go out and win,” he said. “A lot of things could happen (with Sioux Falls at Texas tonight), although we think Sioux Falls will win. But if something happens we could get to host the league championship game.”
The Fever could play spoiler tonight, but Tri-Cities head coach Adam Shackleford downplays that.
“We’re just worried about ourselves,” Shackleford said. “We’re trying to build up our program.”
The two teams met in the Toyota Center back in March, with the Fever winning 44-31.
“We just didn’t execute on offense against Tri-Cities,” Davis said. “Defensively, we played well up to our last few series. “
The same keys in their contest back in March apply to tonight’s contest.
“I think we’ve got to be able to run the football against them,” Shackleford said. “We have to keep (Nebraska quarterback Jameel) Sewell from running and keep him in the pocket.”
Sewell has been the key to Nebraska’s success, said Davis.
“Without Sewell, we’re not where we are this season,” Davis said. “With his numbers I don’t think you can bet against him for league MVP. (Former Sioux Falls quarterback) Chris Dixon had the same type of numbers and he was MVP.”
Shackleford said the Danger is loaded with talent.
“They’ve got a lot of experience on that team,” he said. “The last time we played them we were in better shape than they were.”
That may not be the same story tonight.
Fever linebacker Boris Lee is out with a cracked vertabrae after last week’s 33-6 victory over the visiting Wyoming Cavalry. Defensive tackle Vaalyn Jackson (knee) is also out.
Defensive back Lionell Singleton suffered a broken finger in last week’s game when he and teammate Dennis Rogan collided in the end zone. But the league’s leading interception man with nine still intends to play.
Shackleford is bringing a banged up unit into Grand Island, “but we’ve got enough to play.”
And Davis is wary of some of them.
“Ever since Shack went to Dante (Warren at quarterback), he’s kind of given them a spark,” Davis said. “He’s played extremely well and he’s mobile. They’ve been running the ball well. And to have the secondary they have, it’s one of the top in the league.”
Notes: The Fever has won five of its last six games. ... Sewell is the league’s top rated passer, throwing for a league-best 2,400 yards and 48 touchdowns to just four interceptions. He leads a Nebraska offense which ranks first in the league at 53.7 points per game. ... The Fever ranks sixth in the league in scoring at 43.2 points per game Tri-Cities ranked second in the league in scoring defense allowing 40.2 points per game. Nebraska is sixth allowing 45.5 points per game. Warren ranks third in the league in passer rating at 107.5. He has thrown 23 touchdowns to just three interceptions. Warren and Sewell are two of the top rushing quarterbacks in the league. Sewell ranks second in the league in rushing yards with 541, while Warren is fourth at 530 While Singleton leads the league with nine interceptions, teammate Rudell Crim is second with eight.