Editor’s note: When the Tri-Cities Fever opens its Indoor Football League season at home against the Wyoming Cavalry on Friday, it will mark the franchise’s 10th campaign. Over the next 10 days, the Herald will look at the top 10 moments and top 10 players in franchise history. Today is No. 5:
No. 5 moment
The 2005 Tri-Cities Fever had just knocked off an undefeated Everett Hawks the week before in the National Indoor Football League playoffs.
That forced the first-year Fever to head to Odessa, Texas, where it was to play the unbeaten Odessa Roughnecks in the humid Ector County Coliseum on July 23 for the National Conference title and a chance to play in the NIFL championship.
Things didn’t look good early, as Odessa jumped out to a 19-7 lead after the first quarter.
The Fever rallied to cut the Roughnecks lead to 26-21 at halftime.
In the third quarter, the Tri-Cities defense took control by recovering an Odessa fumble in the end zone, then finishing off a goal line stand, with linebacker Ron Childs making the final stop inside the 2.
In turn, Fever quarterback Doug Coleman connected with receiver Kevin Heard for a 33-yard touchdown pass that gave Tri-Cities a 27-26 lead midway through the third quarter. It was a lead the Fever would never relinquish.
Coleman added a 9-yard TD pass to Mike Rigell for a 34-26 Fever lead.
But Odessa fought back with another score to cut the lead to 34-33. That’s when Jarvis Dunn stepped in. He took the ensuing kickoff and returned it 50 yards for a touchdown and a 41-33 lead.
The Roughnecks scored one more time, but missed the 2-point conversion to cut the Tri-Cities lead to 41-39.
Odessa got the ball back for a final drive and was heading down the field for what looked to be the winning score.
But with less than 30 seconds left, Odessa quarterback Jason Johnson elected to pass for the winning score. He fired the ball into the end zone, and a diving Sullivan Beard intercepted the pass for the Fever to clinch the victory.
“I saw all of their receivers running crossing routes,” said Beard. “Once the ball was in the air, I took a dive and picked it off.”
No. 5 player
Wide receiver Steven Whitehead
Whitehead found his way to the Fever in 2011 as a free agent. He had played the season before with the Alaska Wild before the franchise folded.
At 5-foot-8, a receiver needs to have speed to be effective.
That was what Whitehead had. He was fearless in going over the middle. He was a big reason the Fever went to two consecutive championship games.
In 2011, he caught 58 passes for 667 yards and 10 touchdowns. He was even more effective in the postseason, catching a league-high 24 passes for 298 yards and eight more TDs.
In 2012, he was a second-team All-IFL selection for his 84 catches for 791 yards and 20 touchdowns. In the playoffs, he added 14 catches for 111 yards and another touchdown.
Whitehead came back for one more season in 2013, but injuries limited him to eight contests. He was still able to lead the team with 44 catches for 451 yards and nine touchdowns.
Altogether, his final numbers: 224 receptions, 2,318 yards, and 48 touchdown catches.