The Tri-Cities Fever are riding high after beating the Colorado Crush 37-34 last weekend, but today they will run into a Wichita Falls team that boasts one of the best offenses in the IFL.
The Nighthawks (3-1), who haven’t played since March 25, have won three in a row. They lead the league in total offense at 277 yards per game. They have the top quarterback in Charles McCullum, who has completed 71 percent of his passes and thrown for 17 touchdowns and just two interceptions.
“They have a really good offense, a veteran quarterback and a strong, physical line,” Fever coach Ryan Lingenfelder said. “They have a good running game and gifted receivers. Coach (Billy) Back calls a good game.
“They are on fire right now. They are aggressive defensively. We know this will be our toughest matchup of the year, so far.”
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The Fever (2-3) hope to use their momentum off last week’s win to give them a spark tonight.
“We’ve had a solid week of practice, and we are eager to get on the road,” Lingenfelder said. “Road trips are good for team bonding and letting your hair down. We want to take our momentum as a positive moving forward.”
The Fever have been able to find success by keeping the core of their team intact.
They have the same two quarterbacks they started the season with, as well as the same front three on the offensive line.
Viondy Merisma has given the line stability at center, while tackles Rodrick Gladney and Jarrod Martin round out the group. Martin will miss tonight’s game because of an injury and will be replaced by newcomer Jairus Spain (6-5, 320).
Receivers DeJay Lester, Akeem Foster and DeJuan Miller have been quarterback Patrick McCain’s go-to guys.
“Compared to Shack’s (former coach Adam Shackleford’s) transactions, we only have six since camp started,” Lingenfelder said. “We have had a solid base of guys and that makes your team stronger.”
Tri-Cities ranks third in the league on defense, where it allows 43.8 points a game. The defense will have to flex its muscle against the Nighthawks, who average 67 points a game.
With every point important tonight, the Fever also will need their kicking game to be at its best.
Steven Wakefield has struggled early this season, making just 9 of 23 field goals and 16 of 23 extra points.
“Our kicker is not at the top or the bottom, he’s in the middle of the IFL,” Lingenfelder said. “With that being said, he’s a rookie. He is not the reason we are 2-3. Everyone, including the coaches, are to blame. He is a three-time All-American (for Mercyhurst University, which is Division II) and he has a strong leg. But this is arena football and it takes time to adjust.”
ROSTER MOVES: The Fever released receiver Larry Cobb and offensive lineman Christian Tausaga before leaving for Wichita Falls.