Editor’s note: When the Tri-Cities Fever opens its Indoor Football League season at home against the Wyoming Cavalry today, it will mark the franchise’s 10th campaign. Over the past 10 days, the Herald has looked at the top 10 moments and top 10 players in franchise history. Today is No. 1:
No. 1 moment
The headline on the cover of the Tri-City Herald sports section on July 31, 2005, said “One season = one title.”
After a rough start to its inaugural season, the Tri-Cities Fever finished with a flourish by defeating the visiting Rome Renegades 47-31 to win the National Indoor Football League championship.
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The Fever had spent the three previous weeks winning NIFL playoff games on the road — in Wyoming, Everett and Odessa.
Because Tri-Cities had the better overall record, it earned the right to play host to the Georgia team in the final, and fans lined up in droves to snap up tickets for the game.
It also happened to be on a Saturday during boat race weekend, giving the community an extra major event to attend.
With a sellout crowd of 5,796 fans screaming their lungs out, the Fever struck quickly as quarterback Doug Coleman hit receiver Mike Rigell on a 27-yard TD pass just a couple of plays into the contest for a 7-0 lead.
The Fever would never trail in this game.
Coleman, who was 36 at the time, told his teammates just before the kickoff in the locker room that this was going to be his last game.
He made it a great one, tossing four TD passes and throwing for 282 yards.But things didn’t go so smoothly.
After the Fever built a 33-17 lead, Rome rallied to cut it to 33-31.
The Fever defense, led by linebacker Ron Childs, stepped up in the second half. Childs hit Renegades starting quarterback Bo Bartik hard enough to knock him out of the game.
Coleman connected with Josh Jelmberg — a Richland High graduate — for a 5-yard TD pass to extend the Fever lead to 40-31.
Tri-Cities used another defensive stop late in the game, and then came the big play.
Stuck back at his own 2, Coleman found receiver Sonte Wong over the middle. The young receiver made a couple of moves, picked up a key block from his cousin, Rigell, and finished off the play for a 48-yard touchdown and a 47-31 lead and the title.
With Queen’s We Are the Champions blaring over the P.A. system, the Fever — with two coaches, three different quarterbacks, an incredible string of road playoff wins — celebrated a championship.
"Everybody was together tonight," Coleman said. "That's what I like about this team. I wasn't going to go out and lose this game. This was my last game. And I was glad everybody else on this team felt the same way."
No. 1 player
Defensive back Lionell Singleton
Singleton’s on-field credentials are impressive enough.
He was signed by head coach Adam Shackleford halfway through the 2010 Indoor Football League season, and has been here ever since.
His statistics in those 3 1/2 seasons are incredible: 339 tackles, 29 interceptions, of which six of them were returned for touchdowns.
He was named first-team All-IFL in both the 2011 and 2012 seasons.
Now throw in his off-field work, in which he and teammate Brandon Wilson have been honored by the IFL and the Kennewick School District for their after school program, called the Next Level of Academics and Athletics.
That program helps at-risk elementary and middle school students with after-school help with homework and physical education.
Singleton is a perfect example of an athlete who came from a long distance (Florida) to play for a professional sports team, but stayed to make this community his home and make people’s lives better.