Could last weekend’s 72-63 win over the Green Bay Blizzard be the turning point for the Tri-Cities Fever this season?
Adam Shackleford and his team think so.
“We sure hope so,” said Shackleford. “It certainly was a must-win game. I didn’t want to play it up as much. I don’t think it’s fair to our guys on the road. But we needed to come out and play well.”
The Fever is 2-5 at the halfway point and plays Intense Conference rival Colorado at 7:05 p.m. Saturday in the Toyota Center.
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The Ice is 5-2 and tied for first with the Nebraska Danger in the division. The Fever takes on the Ice on Saturday, then plays host to the Danger on Saturday, May 3.
“There’s a lot of football left,” said Shackleford. “If we can win (Saturday against the Ice) and if we can win against Nebraska, we can close the gap. These next two games complete a very tough part of our schedule.”
One thing Shackleford was pleased with was the Tri-Cities offense last weekend.
“I was very impressed with the way our offense performed,” said Shackleford. “We seemed to click. We kept ourselves out of third-and-long situations and that helped the play-calling.”
The Tri-Cities offense got untracked Saturday, scoring 72 points.
Led by Fever quarterback Houston Lillard, the offensive unit reminded fans of the 2012 team that made it all the way to the United Bowl – the Indoor Football League’s title game.
For Lillard, who was signed by the team early this month after an 18-month layoff, it was a near-perfect game.
He was 22-for-26 for 241 yards and seven – that’s right, seven – touchdown passes. He connected with five different receivers, and he also rushed for 41 yards.
For his efforts, Lillard was named the IFL Offensive Player of the Week.
“It felt real good to do that,” said Lillard. “When I get to spread the ball around like that, everybody is doing what they need to be doing.”
It wasn’t easy.
Green Bay promoted assistant coach Tommie Williams to head coach the week before the contest, after Chad Baldwin was let go. Lillard said he wasn’t sure what to expect.
“They had a couple of different looks,” said Lillard. “In the first quarter, I just tried to feel them out, taking what they were giving me.”
As the game went on, Lillard said he felt more comfortable. After three weeks, he has more confidence.
“I feel like I’m in a much better flow of things,” he said. “Before, I felt the flow was a little predetermined.”
And he’s getting a better feel of his receivers – although one, Tre Young, is done for the season.
Young suffered a compound fracture of his leg during Saturday’s win in the second half, and he was put on season-ending injured reserve this week.
“He was fighting for extra yards,” said Lillard. “He got pulled down and someone fell on him.”
Shackleford said there’s a chance Young could play again – obviously not this season, though.
“It wasn’t a spiral break,” Shackleford said. “The doctors said it was a clean break, so that’s very positive. Tre has a tremendous attitude. His attitude is always good and (the injury) was tough on the guys.”
Despite that, the team was able to forge on ahead for the win.
“At the end of the day, I was very impressed with how the guys handled it,” Shackleford said.