The Tri-Cities Fever, struggling with a 3-6 record, faces a do-or-die proposition tonight when it faces the Bemidji Axemen on the road in an Indoor Football League game.
Kickoff is at 5:05 p.m. PDT.
Heading into today’s game, the Fever trail second-place Colorado (5-3) by 21⁄2 games from an Intense Conference playoff berth.
Meanwhile, Bemidji sits in third place in the United Conference with a 5-4 record — 3 games out of a playoff berth behind Cedar Rapids (8-1).
“We have to play hard,” said Fever quarterback Houston Lillard. “We have to have a good offensive performance. I think it’s one of those games where we try to create some sparks. Both teams kind of have their backs against the wall.”
Tri-Cities’ defense must face Bemidji quarterback Cody Kirby, who was the IFL offensive rookie of the year in 2013 while playing for the Chicago Slaughter.
Kirby began this season with the Nebraska Danger, and he helped spell regular starter Jameel Sewell when the lefty was sidelined with injuries.
But he was traded last month to the Axemen.
The Fever may not have to go up against Axemen receiver Nick Truesdell. The 6-foot-7 receiver who has 28 catches for 402 yards and nine TDs was invited by the NFL’s Green Bay Packers for a series of workouts.
Regardless, Tri-Cities must be able to move the football against a stubborn Bemidji defense.
“They fly around the field on defense,” said Lillard. “That’s why we have to play four quarters of football.”
By the numbers
The Fever ranks fourth in the IFL in scoring at 50.0 points per game, and the Axemen are sixth at 47.1 Tri-Cities ranks seventh in scoring defense, allowing 54.3 points per game. Bemidji is fifth at 43.9. The Axemen are third in total offense at 251 yards per game, while the Fever is fifth at 240.3 Keithon Flemming is third in scoring TDs with 13 In just five games, Lillard ranks sixth in the league in passing yards with 931 and is fifth in pass completions with 92 Bemidji receiver Ryan Balentine is second in the league in receiving yards per game at 79.4, and ranks first in reception yards with 635. He also has 10 receiving touchdowns. Balentine is also third in all-purpose average yardage at 94 per game. ... Fever kicker Brady Beeson’s 11 field goals are ranked third in the league. ... Axemen return man De’Markus Washington’s 20.8-yards-per-kick return is second best in the league. He’s also tied for first with two kickoff returns for touchdowns. ... Fever DB Donyae Coleman has four interceptions, tied for second. ... Fever DB Lionell Singleton leads the team with 66 tackles. ... Bemidji LB Jory Johnson leads the Axemen with 46 tackles. ... Axemen DB Adam Lucas has 11 passes defended, ranking him second.