Tri-Cities Fever

Offenses set to shine today in Fever vs. Billings

KENNEWICK — You like offense?

Prepare to get your fill today as two of the Indoor Football League's most productive offenses meet at 7:05 p.m. at Toyota Center.

You like defense?

You just might have to suck it up this week.

The Tri-Cities Fever (1-4), ranked fourth in the IFL in scoring at 48.6 points per game, and the Billings Outlaws (5-1), ranked second at 55.7, combined for 114 points in their last matchup -- a 64-50 Billings win in Week 2 -- and gave MetraPark fans their money's worth.

But the game was a defensive coordinator's worst nightmare.

And don't think Fever coach Adam Shackleford isn't sweating another matchup against Outlaws quarterback Chris Dixon, who passed for 195 yards and four touchdowns and ran for another TD in their first meeting.

Dixon, a Humboldt State grad, leads the league with 28 scoring strikes and is also the IFL's fifth-leading rusher.

"Dixon runs as well as he passes, and he buys time with his feet. He's a guy we've got to contain," Shackleford said.

Dixon will have to deal with the departure of yet another receiver after the Outlaws traded away a starting receiver for the second straight week, dealing Lemans Casimier to Colorado for receiver Josh Gibson and offensive lineman Sam Bentley.

But one of the best weapons for the defending IFL champions has been cohesion.

"They're a great team that's been playing together for a long time. They just don't make mistakes," said Shackleford, who coached the Spokane Shock to the af2 championship last season. "If we make the same mistakes we did last week, this team will take advantage of that."

But Tri-Cities will bring a few weapons of its own, starting with running back Tyson Thompson, who ranks sixth in the IFL in all-purpose yards, and quarterback Andy Collins, a Zillah graduate. Collins passed for two touchdowns and ran for three more in the loss at Billings.

"I feel like we have to establish the running game," Shackleford said. "We've got a quality guy in Thompson. And we've got to protect Andy a little better than we did last week."

Shackleford is also optimistic about one of his newest additions -- wide receiver Joey Hew Len, who played at Hawaii and Southern Utah and was cut by the Shock last season.

"He's never played indoor but he's got great instincts, and you can't teach that," Shackleford said. "He can play. He just needs to get some experience."

The Fever defense ranks last in the league in points allowed per game (56.4) and total defense (284 yards per game), and is second-to-last in passing defense (199.2). But Shackleford hopes that the team's recent moves -- Tri-City signed six players, including linebacker Chris Hunsaker and defensive end Ameer Ismail -- will help stabilize the struggling unit.

"We've been giving up some deep balls that have hurt us," he said. "I feel the additions we've made have helped us."

Shackleford has been encouraged by the team's second-half play through the first five games. Tri-Cities has outscored opponents 125-115 over the final two quarters.

The next challenge is to balance that out with better first-half play. The Fever has been outscored 143-92 -- an average of over 10 points a game -- in the first half thus far.

"I think it's just mental mistakes and maybe some trouble in the red zone," Shackleford said. "We're making mistakes on a team that hasn't played a lot of football together.

"Hopefully things improve from last week. We had a breakout half (26 second-half points in a 55-33 loss at Kent). We just need to be more consistent."

Billings Outlaws (5-1) at Tri-Cities Fever (1-4)

7:05 p.m., Toyota Center

Last week: Tri-Cities lost on the road to the Kent Predators 55-33. Billings beat the Alaska Wild at home 65-25.

Previous meeting: Billings won at home in the teams' first matchup 64-50 in Week 2.

Players to watch: Tri-Cities: QB Andy Collins (74-124-5-869, 20 TDs), RB Tyson Thompson (588 all-purpose yards, 3 TDs, 21.0 kick return avg.), WR Thyron Lewis (25-366, 13 TDs), CB Montavis Pitts (44 tackles, 2 int), K Brett Jaekle (5-11 FG, 15-20 XP). Billings: QB Chris Dixon (94-148-5-894, 28 TDs passing; 55-290, 5 TDs rushing), WR James Walton (22-300, 11 TDs), RB Eddie Linscomb (29-120, 5 TDs; LB Kelly Rouse (59 tackles, 2 sacks), K Garret Palmer (5-7 FG, 33-42 XP).

Notes: Billings has won four games in a row, losing to Colorado in Week 2. Tri-Cities' only win came at home against Fairbanks in Week 7. ... The Fever ranks fourth in the league in points per game (48.6) and sixth in passing yards (173.6). The Outlaws are second in points (55.7), fourth in yards from scrimmage (250) and seventh in rushing yards (100.7). Defensively, Tri-Cities ranks last in the IFL in points allowed (56.4) and yards allowed (284). Billings is also in the bottom half of the league in points against, rushing defense and passing defense. ... The Fever made no roster moves this week, but the Outlaws traded WR Lemans Casimier, a top-20 receiver, to Colorado for WR Josh Gibson and OL Sam Bentley. ... K Jaekle kicked four field goals against Billings in Week 2.