Tri-Cities Fever

Fever ready for another run

KENNEWICK -- Adam Shackleford is a lot more relaxed today than he was a year ago.

"I was just looking at my notes," said the Tri-Cities Fever coach. "Right now, we have 41 players signed. A year ago at this time, we had 11. A team has never won a football game on paper, but we're far ahead of where we were last year."

Now that the holidays are out of the way, Indoor Football League fans can see the light at the end of the tunnel as far as the 2011 season starting.

"Our first day of camp will be Feb. 13," said Shackleford. "That'll give the players the 11th and 12th to fly in."

He likes the way his roster has taken shape. He has been tweaking it since the 2010 season ended in July.

"We've been very busy and we think we've got a good group of guys coming in," he said. "I think if you're able to get a better quality of player, you have to make those hard decisions."

Yet Shackleford still has nine players from last season coming to camp.

That list includes quarterback Houston Lillard, offensive linemen Kenny Ackerman and Jason Donnal, wide receiver Joey Hew Len, linebacker Cyrus Mulitalo, defensive lineman Fred Poole, and defensive back Lionell Singleton.

Shackleford has gone the national route, where he searches high and low for his talent.

Compare that to the Wenatchee Venom, which has signed 14 players from Northwest colleges and universities.

"When I got my start in indoor football, it was in the Midwest and South. That's where I know a lot of agents. I try to find the best guys available."

Fever owner Teri Carr has no problem with Shackleford's philosophy.

"It's nice to have local guys who can stay year around in town," Carr said. "But the bottom line is winning."

And that's what Shackleford has planned -- to win.

It all starts in about a month.

NOTES:

Andy Collins, the Zillah High product who started last season at quarterback for the Fever until his season ended in a shoulder injury, signed with the Spoklane Shock of the Arena Football League.

"As far as I know he's fine," Shackleford said about Collins' injury. "We made a decision not to bring him back and instead go with Houston (Lillard)."

-- A lot has happened with the division-rival Kent Predators in the last month.

Team owner Ken Moninski thought he had a deal to sell the team to Michael Tuckman and his West Coast Sports group. So sure, in fact, that Tuckman hired former Billings Outlaws coach Heron O'Neal to lead the Predators on the field.

But a few weeks ago, O'Neal resigned because he hadn't been paid for the first two months of work, Tuckman's proposed purchase fell apart, and it looked like the Predators organization would fall apart.

Two groups, however, stepped in, and the league executive committee approved one of them on Monday.

Now the team needs to find a new coach.

O'Neal, meanwhile, has since signed with the Colorado Ice to be its defensive coordinator.

-- The league meetings are this week in Ohio. Nothing big is expected out of them, as most of it will deal with playing rules. ... Carr said the Pacific Division teams (Kent, Tri-Cities and Wenatchee) have decided to pay their own travel costs into Fairbanks for their first game of the season against the division-rival Grizzlies. The second time a team has to go up there, Fairbanks will subsidize anything that costs over $5,500. ... Sioux Falls, which already signed quarterback Chris Dixon last month, just signed defensive line standout Michael Bazemore. Both players were with last year's IFL champion Billings Outlaws, now disbanded. ... Former Fever defensive backs Antar Brame and Muhammad Shamsid-Deen have signed with the expansion Arizona Adrenaline.

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