The second half of the Indoor Football League season for both the Colorado Ice and the Tri-Cities Fever gets under way tonight with a contest between the two teams at the Toyota Center.
Kickoff is at 7:05 p.m.
This will be the second of three meetings between the Intense Conference rivals, and Tri-Cities’ personnel hope this game goes better than the last. On April 13, the visiting Fever fell to the Ice 55-28.
“They were more aggressive than us from the jump,” said Tri-Cities quarterback Houston Lillard. “We just came out flat.”
So what can the Fever (2-5) do differently this time?
“Just take care of the ball to start,” said Lillard. “They knew how to play against us. So we just have to take what they give us.”
Fever coach Adam Shackleford wants to see a repeat of what his team did last week in a 72-63 road victory over Green Bay.
“We need to play like we did last week on offense,” said Shackleford. “And we need to tackle better defensively.”
Colorado comes into this game with a 5-2 record, tied atop the Intense Conference standings with the Nebraska Danger.
“They have a very good running game (with former Fever RB Dennis Kennedy),” said Shackleford. “They have an experienced quarterback (in Willie Copeland). And they pounded us good the first time we met.”
What may be interesting is the Ice left Colorado on Wednesday night via bus. But by Friday afternoon, Coach Heron O’Neal’s team was still travelling by bus.
“Yeah 48 hours is what it totaled out to,” said O’Neal, once the team arrived in the Tri-Cities on Friday night. “Everything that could go wrong did. We had two flat tires and a radiator that cracked. I’ve never experienced anything like that.”
What that does for the Ice, even O’Neal doesn’t know until the game starts.
All he knows is he doesn’t expect this game to be as easy as the one earlier this month.
“The personnel moves they just did last 24 to 48 hours, it’s gonna be a different team,” O’Neal said.
Tri-Cities signed former Fever standout Steven Whitehead this week to step in for Tre Young, who suffered a compound fracture of his leg last Saturday and is done for the season.
“Steven Whitehead is a monster,” said O’Neal. “He has just destroyed us since I’ve been here. I’m pretty sure he’s in good shape. He’ll be ready to go. He’s a playmaker.”
O’Neal said he needs his defense to put pressure on Lillard.
“You can never stop him, you can only hope to contain him,” said O’Neal. “And the addition of Whitehead is gonna create tough matchups. We have to make them earn everything they get, and our offense has to continue to be hot.”
Whitehead expects to contribute right away tonight.
“The beauty of it is I already know the plays,” said Whitehead, who never expected to play again after last season. “Something inside of me is itching to play again. And the great thing about this coming back is Houston is back too. I’ve had more success from him throwing the football to me than anyone else who has thrown footballs to me, including my brother.”
The Fever signed DL Harold Love (6-3, 320) and released DL E.J. Nduka on Friday. Love, who was with the AFL’s Portland Thunder but hadn’t played for the team yet, will see action tonight. ... WR-DB Mario Washington was also signed this week by Shackleford. Washington (6-0, 205) played at the U.S. Naval Academy and had been with Montreal of the CFL and Philadelphia in the AFL. Shackleford is not sure he’ll play tonight. ... Tonight is also Go Pink Night, with the Fever wearing pink jerseys to support the fight against breast cancer. A silent auction will be held to purchase the jerseys, and all proceeds go to the Tri-City Cancer Center.
By the Numbers
Colorado ranks third in the IFL in scoring defense, averaging 50.4 points a game. Tri-Cities is fourth at 49.1. ... The Ice is third in scoring defense at 37.6 points. The Fever is seventh at 55.4. ... The Fever is tied for second in total offense with 256.6 yards per game, while the Ice is fifth at 241.6. ... The Ice leads the IFL in turnover margin at plus-11. The Fever is seventh at minus-7. ... Tri-Cities leads the league in average penalty-yardage per game, with a league-low of 49.7 yards a game. Colorado is fifth at 60.9 yards a game. ... Ice QB Willie Copeland leads the league in total offense, averaging 205.7 yards a game. His involvement in 39 touchdowns (4 rushing and 29 passing) ranks second. Copeland is also tops in the league with 168.4 yards passing per game. ... Fever RB Keithon Flemming is No. 1 in average points a game for non-kickers. Flemming has found the end zone 11 times this season (plus a 2-point conversion) for 68 points — an average of 11.3 points a game. Flemming also averages 44.0 yards rushing per game. That’s second in the IFL. His 5.4 yards per carry has him tied for first. ... Colorado kicker Phil Welch has 73 points over seven games for a 10.4-points-per-game average, ranking him third. His 87 percent (40 for 46) of PAT attempts ranks second. Welch is also 11-for-22 in field goal attempts for 50 percent. That ranks him third. ... While he’s only played in three games, Fever quarterback Houston Lillard has connected on 63.6 percent (56 for 88) of his passes — way ahead of the rest of the league’s QBs. ... Ice receiver Kyler Kaiser has 12 TD catches out of his total of 27 receptions. ... Fever DB Donyae Coleman and Ice DB Harcourt Farquharson each have four interceptions, tied for second. ... Former Fever LB Joe Thornton, now with Colorado, leads the Ice in tackling. He’s tied for fourth, being in on 61 of them. Fever DB Lionell Singleton is sixth in the league, making 52 tackles.