The Tri-Cities Fever coaching staff pretty much pulled an all-nighter Monday to put together a game plan for this Friday’s Intense Conference Championship game.
As the coaches ran the players through a three-hour workout Tuesday, they looked groggy from lack of sleep.
But at least they have a plan when the Wichita Wild comes to visit — kickoff is at 7:05 p.m. Friday in the Toyota Center.
The two teams — the Fever is 13-2 and the Wild is 9-6 — never met each other this season, even though they are both in the same conference.Head coach Adam Shackleford came away impressed with all of the game film he saw on the Wild.
“I think they win football games with defense,” Shackleford said. “In their last five games, they had either a fumble or interception return for a touchdown. They’ve had special teams touchdowns too.”
Fever quarterback Houston Lillard will have to face that defense.
“Wichita is very opportunistic,” Lillard said. “Their secondary will be one of the best we will face. They remind me of West Texas, who we played in the first round last year. They fly around the field.”
Leading the way is defensive lineman Matt Moss, who had 15 sacks this season and was named the Indoor Football League’s co-Defensive Player of the Year on Tuesday.
“Matt Moss is pretty good,” Shackleford said. “Their whole defensive line is pretty good.”
The Fever defense will have to stop Wichita’s running game, led by Tywon Hubbard.
“They’ve got a great running offense,” Fever defensive lineman Jake Killeen said. “Hubbard is one of the best running backs in the league.”
Fever defensive back Lionell Singleton agreed.
“Hubbard is real shifty,” he said.
Shackleford is especially worried about two players on the Wichita offensive unit.
“I notice two guys on offense, (wide receiver) Tim Simmons and Tywon Hubbard,” Shackleford said. “Hubbard and (Fever running back Dennis) Kennedy are as good as you can get. Hubbard is definitely one of the elite running backs in the league. He’s hard to bring down. You’ve got to wraphim. He’s slick.”
The key, though, might be how the Fever offense handles the Wild’s high-flying defense.
“Because I think our defense will beat their offense,” Lillard said.
w Shackleford was impressed with offensive lineman Chris Rutledge’s performance last week for the Fever, especially since the 6-foot-6, 330-pounder from the University of Miami had to step into the lineup quickly after starter Ryan Tolar (staph infection) wasn’t able to go.
“Football is football no matter where you go,” Rutledge said. “The intensity is the same. You just go out and play. I am just happy to help out the team.“I feel comfortable. The speed of the game has everyone right on you. I had to take some time to learn the playbook.”
The league announced some of its individual award winners.
Sioux Falls quarterback Chris Dixon, who led the Storm to a 14-0 regular-season record, was named the Offensive Player of the Year.
Bloomington Edge linebacker Ameer Ismail (167 tackles) and Wild defensive lineman Moss (15 sacks) shared the Defensive Player of the Year award.Ameer played for the Fever back in 2010.
“That’s a lot of tackles,” Shackleford said. “As a former Fever player, we’re extremely happy for him to win that award.”
Everett Raptors kick returner Mike Tatum, who returned five kicks for touchdowns, was the league’s Special Teams Player of the Year.
Wyoming Cavalry wide receiver Jasonus Tillery (84 catches, 27 TDs) was the Offensive Rookie of the Year, while Omaha Beef linebacker Peter Buck (142 tackles) was the Defensive Rookie of the Year.
Nebraska Danger quarterback Rocky Hinds was named Most Improved Player; and Green Bay coach Robert Fuller was named the winner of the Adam Pringle Award, given to the player or coach who exemplified outstanding service and dedication to their surrounding community. Fuller also won the award last year while coaching the now-defunct Fairbanks Grizzlies.
Fever kicker Brady Beeson has coached a number of young kickers over the last few years.
So he thought he might as well see if anyone in the Tri-Cities is interested in learning from him too, since he’s here.
He’s already got one young high school kicker learning the ropes, and is looking for more.
Those interested should contact him at 612-799-8568 or at Brady@hustedkicking.com.