Tri-Cities Fever

Fever still looking for first win of 2010

KENNEWICK -- After a few false starts, the Tri-Cities Fever gets to play 11 straight weeks of football, starting tonight with a game against the Fairbanks Grizzlies at the Toyota Center.

Kickoff is 7:05 p.m.

The Indoor Football League began its season with its first game Feb. 26.

But here we are, April 10, and today's game will be just the Fever's fourth, compared to Fairbanks' sixth. That's because the Fever has had a few bye weeks thrown into its schedule.

Tri-Cities' games were March 8, 14 and 27.

"I think there are one or two ways to look at it," said Fever coach Adam Shackleford. "Either you're winning, and there is some down time between games where you can get healthy. Or in our case, you're not winning and then you've got an extra week to think about it."

The Fever is off to an 0-3 start, but all three losses -- 69-67 in four overtimes at Fairbanks; 64-50 at Billings; and 55-49 at home against Kent -- have been close games.

"We're making little mistakes," Shackleford said. "We're having breakdowns both offensively and defensively. We saw some things (on the Kent game film) where we kind of got exposed."

This week, Shackleford added some indoor experience when he signed offensive lineman Jason Donnal, wide receivers Joey Hew-Len and Tim Simmons, linebacker Chris Hunsaker and running back Antoine Rutherford.

Shackleford feels like the Fever is just a few plays away from getting that first win. The chance to actually play 11 games in a row without a bye -- to get into a rhythm -- is a welcome task for the Fever.

The bad news is tonight's opponent is 4-1 and atop the Pacific North Division standings.

"We're playing an extremely good team, a well-coached team," Shackleford said.

Fairbanks coach Sean Ponder and Shackleford are very familiar with one another.

"When Coach Shackleford was in Louisville, I was in Quad City and then Wichita," said Ponder, whose team has been in the Tri-Cities since Thursday.

"When he was head coach in Spokane, I was head coach at Quad City. I could draw up his playbook, and he could draw up mine," he said. "This is about the seventh or eighth time we've faced each other."

Could we be looking at another high-scoring game tonight with these teams, like the 69-67 four-OT thriller?

"I hope not," said Ponder. "That was tough on the guys' legs. It could be one of those games you could tell after the first quarter how it's going to go. It could be a 35-28 game or a 75-74 game."

Whatever the score is, Shackleford just wants to see his team on top.

"I feel like we are (right there)," he said. "But with our schedule, we're gonna have to take it one game at a time."

Notes: Fever running back and kick returner Tyson Thompson is 11th in the IFL in all-purpose yardage at 357. ... Fever quarterback Andy Collins has a 106.1 passing rating, with 46 completions on 72 attempts. He's 10th in the league with 593 yards passing, and ninth with 12 TD passes. ... Fever receiver Thyron Lewis is fifth in the league in receiving yardage with 287, and second with eight TD catches. ... Fever kicker Brett Jaekle is ninth in the IFL with four field goals. ... Fairbanks quarterback Matt Bassoenor has a 78.9 rating, going 33-for-64. ... Grizzlies wide reciever Lonnie Sanders is fifth in the IFL with 22 catches. ... Fairbanks kicker Carlos Ojeda has nine field goals. ... The Grizzlies have a couple of Washington guys on their roster. WSU offensive lineman Vaughn Lesuma and EWU defensive lineman Mike Quinn start. ... Kent quarterback Charles McCullum, who lead the Predators past the Fever on March 27, was the league's offensive player of the week after that game. He's tops in the IFL with 338 yards rushing.