KENNEWICK -- The Tri-Cities Fever will get another shot with the 2011 Indoor Football League champion Sioux Falls Storm.
Not once, but twice during the 2012 season.
The 2012 IFL schedule was released Monday, and for the Fever, there are plenty of highlights.
But Fever coach Adam Shackleford wants to make clear playing the Storm isn't about revenge.
"We wanted to play Sioux Falls," said Shackleford, whose team fell 37-10 in last season's championship game to the Storm. "We wanted to play the best team in the league and find out how we can get back to (the title game). I wanted to play Sioux Falls. It's a respect thing. I want to find out where we're at. There's a lot of people running from Sioux Falls. But we need to find out how good we are."
Fever owner Teri Carr agreed.
"Coach Shackleford and I are pleased with this schedule," she said. "We look forward to playing the best the league has to offer. This schedule provides a challenge for our team and excitement for our fans."
There are plenty of highlights in the 2012 schedule. Among them:
* The team's season and home opener is set for Saturday, Feb. 25, in the Toyota Center against the Everett Raptors.
The Fever and Raptors -- technically an expansion team, although many of the front-office personnel and players were with the now-dark Seattle Timberwolves team from last season -- will play three times.
* The Fever will play a home-and-home series with the Storm. The Fever will visit Sioux Falls on May 12, then play host to the Storm on May 26.
* The Fever will also play the Wyoming Cavalry, an old rival from the team's National Indoor Football League days, three times this season.
* And the Fever will also have home-and-homes with the Colorado Ice and the expansion New Mexico Stars.
* The team's bye weeks are evenly distributed this season -- something that didn't happen last year. The team had all of its byes early in 2011 and it became a factor late in the season with player injuries.
The Fever has byes in mid-March, mid-April, and the week off the regular-season final weekend, just before the playoffs.
"That's the only thing I asked (Fever owner) Teri (Carr) to plead to the league committee," Shackleford said. "We would have been in big trouble last season if there wasn't that week off during the playoffs."
The league makeup for 2012 consists of 16 teams -- down from the 22 last season. But a number of those 22 teams were on shaky financial ground, and Carr stated earlier this month that the league's owners felt better with the 16 strong franchises they have.
The Fever will play in the eight-team Intense Conference that will also include the Allen (Texas) Wranglers, the Colorado Ice, the Everett Raptors, the Nebraska Danger, the New Mexico Stars, the Wichita (Kan.) Stars, and the Wyoming Cavalry.
The Fever does not play Allen or Wichita at all during the regular season, so the schedule has an unbalanced look.
The United Conference will include the Bloomington (Ind.) Extreme, the Cedar Rapids (Iowa) Titans, the Chicago Slaughter, the Green Bay Blizzard, the Lehigh Valley Steelhawks, the Omaha Beef, the Reading (Pa.) Express, and the Sioux Falls Storm.
Everett is considered an expansion franchise. So is Cedar Rapids, which consists of personnel from last season's LaCrosse, Wis., team.
New Mexico is also an expansion team, although many players on that team were with the West Texas Roughnecks last season -- including quarterback Arkelon Hall. The Roughnecks' head coach, Chris Williams, will coach the Stars.
As was earlier reported, the Fairbanks Grizzlies and Wenatchee Valley Venom -- two teams in the Fever's division last season -- no longer exist.
w Shackleford said he should receive some more signed contracts from players this week.
"Recruiting is going a lot better than last year at this point," he said.
That says a lot, since the team he had last season may have been the franchise's best.
The Fever did re-sign linebacker Brandon Wilson last week.
Defensive lineman Darius Collins, who played at Hampton College, was signed Oct. 14. DB/LB Winston Juene from UTEP signed Oct. 11, and OL Rodrell Stewart, out of Southern University, signed Oct. 5.
* As for former players, linebacker Jason Beauchamp never really got a chance to play in the United Football League this summer after he tore his ACL.
Shackleford said Beauchamp was given a clean release from the Fever late in the regular season.
"He could have played for us, but I wasn't going to since he had a contract (with the Sacramento Mountain Lions)," Shackleford said. "Then he tore his ACL in camp (with Sacramento). He's gonna go through some rehab. I've been contacted by some CFL teams. I believe he'll be in the CFL next year."
Fever quarterback Houston Lillard, meanwhile, has had some tryout sessions with a couple of Arena Football League teams.
"He's still got some things going," Shackleford said. "My guess is we won't know anything until mid-December."
* Here are the former Fever players who have signed with the AFL in the last two months -- offensive lineman Carl Barnett (Georgia Force), wide recever Jackie Chambers (Kansas City Command), kicker Gary Cismesia (Kansas City), defensive lineman-linebacker Freddie Harris (Spokane Shock), wide receiver Thyron Lewis (Cleveland Gladiators), defensive lineman Christopher Lyle (Kansas City), defensive back Dennis Rogan (Georgia), and wide receiver Tre Young (Jacksonville Sharks).
* Here's the entire 2012 Fever schedule:
Feb. 25 -- Everett Raptors at Fever, 7:05 p.m.
March 4 -- at Nebraska Danger
March 10 -- Colorado Ice at Fever, 7:05 p.m.
March 22 -- at Everett Raptors
March 30 -- Wyoming Cavalry at Fever, 7:05 p.m.
April 6 -- At New Mexico Stars
April 13 -- Everett Raptors at Fever, 7:05 p.m.
April 27 -- New Mexico Stars at Fever, 7:05 p.m.
May 4 -- At Everett Raptors
May 12 -- At Sioux Falls Storm
May 18 -- At Wyoming Cavalry
May 26 -- Sioux Falls Storm at Fever, 7:05 p.m.
June 2 -- At Colorado Ice
June 9 -- Wyoming Cavalry at Fever, 7:05 p.m.