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 a 10-day period, the Herald is looking at the top 10 moments and top 10 players in franchise history. Today is No. 4:
No. 4 moment
Adam Shackleford’s 2011 Fever team was a young and talented bunch that finished the regular season with a 10-4 mark — second to the Fairbanks Grizzlies in the Intense Conference’s Pacific Division.
The Fever opened the playoffs with a 61-49 defeat of the visiting West Texas Roughnecks.
From there, the team had to keep winning on the road in order to make it to the title game.
And that’s what it did.
Traveling to Loveland, Colo., Tri-Cities found itself in a 28-7 hole to the favored Colorado Ice., In addition, Tri-Cities lost wide receiver Joey Hew Len (rib) and linebacker Brandon Wilson (separated shoulder) in the second quarter.
But one of the biggest plays of the game was turned in by the Fever defense late in the first half.
Colorado led 35-21 and had the football at the Tri-Cities 14 with 1:26 left until halftime. But seven plays later, the Ice couldn’t get the ball into the end zone. Ice quarterback David Knighton scrambled in the waning seconds and was tackled from behind by Fever defensive lineman Christopher Lyle as the clock ran out.
The Fever defense gave up just seven second-half points — Colorado had just four offensive series in the final two quarters, one ending on downs and two others on missed field goals.
Tri-Cities’ big go-to guy was Steven Whitehead. The diminutive but speedy receiver caught the team’s final three TD passes — 12, 12 and 34 yards. The last one came with 4:55 remaining and tied the game at 42-42.
The Fever defense made one more stop after Whitehead’s third TD, as Ice kicker Rocky Stevens’ 55-yard field goal attempt was well short. Fever kick returner Dennis Rogan returned the ball 25 yards out to the Tri-Cities 20 with 59 seconds remaining in the game.
Fever quarterback Houston Lillard moved the offense down to the Ice 24 with 5.5 seconds remaining, setting up kicker Gary Cismesia’s 39-yard field goal with 1.5 seconds remaining to win the game.
The Fever moved on to play in Allen, Texas, against the Wranglers for the Intense Conference title on July 9.
Fever defensive back Dennis Rogan had two of Tri-Cities' four interceptions, and the Fever added two fumble recoveries and two sacks in a 67-46 rout of the Wranglers.
Lillard threw for 214 yards and seven touchdowns for Tri-Cities, which advanced to the Indoor Football League championship July 16 in Sioux Falls, S.D.
The Fever’s Road Warrior routine ended in South Dakota, losing to the Storm 37-10.
Sioux Falls held just a 17-10 halftime lead, but the Storm defense took control in the second half.
Regardless, it was a remarkable season for a young Fever team that wasn’t expected to go this far, but instead finished with a 13-5 mark.
No. 4 player
Defensive end Jake Killeen
He was strong and fast.
Boy was he fast. Jake Killeen would get into his three-point stance and sometimes just overpower the offensive lineman unlucky enough to be facing him.
Other times, Killeen would just sprint by the guy.
During the 2011 and 2012 seasons, Killeen was a major player on the Fever defensive line.
The 6-foot-3, 255-pounder had 36 tackles in eight regular-season games during 2011. He also had three tackles-for-loss and one interception.
In 2012, he played in 15 games, leading the team with 10.5 sacks,getting 28 tackles, forcing three fumbles to go with one interception.
In the past year, Killeen has had a tryout with the Indianapolis Colts, been with the CFL’s Winnipeg Blue Bombers, and is currently with the Arena Football League’s Pittsburgh Power.