Tri-Cities Fever

Shackleford shakes up Fever roster

KENNEWICK -- Tri-Cities Fever coach Adam Shackleford is trying to change the mindset in his new neighborhood.

"There's a mentality in this town that being competitive is just good enough," Shackleford said. "I don't like that."

In other words, a loss -- no matter by how much or little -- is still a loss. And that's unacceptable to Shackleford, who led the Spokane Shock the previous three seasons to a 50-7 mark and an Arena Cup title in 2009.

With that in mind, Shackleford made some personnel moves this week, as the Fever (0-3) prepares to host the Fairbanks Grizzlies (3-1) at 7 p.m. Saturday at Toyota Center.

Gone are running backs Mike Davis and George Stripling, wide receiver Isaiah Smith and linebacker Cyrus Mulitalo. Running back Demetrius Crawford, who played in the Fever's first two games, left before the team's home opener March 28 when he signed with the Canadian Football League's B.C. Lions.

In their place, Shackleford signed offensive lineman Jason Donnal, wide receivers Joey Hew-Len and Tim Simmons, linebacker Chris Hunsaker and running back Antoine Rutherford.

"We're trying to get this thing turned around," Shackleford said. "These guys have been in AFL camps recently. We tried to get some of them in here before they signed with the AFL teams."

Donnal, a 6-foot-4, 335-pounder from Arizona State, was in the Cleveland Gladiators preseason camp.

Simmons at one time was with the Utah Blaze, while Hew-Len played at Southern Utah and was with the Spokane Shock before being released just before the AFL season started last week.

Hunsaker, who went to Northern Arizona, played with the old Columbus Destroyers of the old AFL, and Rutherford played collegiately at Howard University.

Donnal, Hew-Len and Hunsaker were all activated this week on the team's 30-man roster. The others are not.

In addition, linebacker Derek Nicholson should be healthy enough to play Saturday. The Florida State product injured his knee during the Fever's March 14 game in Billings.

Shackleford is hoping this mixture of players might work for a victory Saturday.

"(The 0-3 start) doesn't change our goals," he said. "We've got to find the right guys. Our goal is still to be a good playoff team."

Jeff Morrow: 509-582-1507; jmorrow@tricityherald.com

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