Tri-Cities Fever

IFL: For first time in 3 years, Fever not in title game

The Indoor Football League championship is set for this Saturday in Sioux Falls, S.D., where the host Storm will take on the Nebraska Danger.

Meanwhile, the Tri-Cities Fever’s management is busy this week checking out of apartments and setting travel itineraries for the remaining players still in town.

That’s what happens when your team finishes the regular season with a 6-8 record and you don’t make the playoffs after playing in the two previous championship games.

“I think we entered the season expecting to go at it,” Fever owner Teri Carr said. “We knew nothing was going to be easy.”

In fact, a 1-6 start and early season injuries dug the Fever too big of a hole to get out of — despite the fact the team was playing so well at the end of the season.

“I think we were competitive all season,” Fever coach Adam Shackleford said. “We needed to find a way to get two or three wins. We were playing well at the end of the season. But it doesn’t change the outcome. We didn’t win those football games early.”

Carr mentioned that five of those losses were determined in the final seconds.But there were some bright spots.

The Fever found a new quarterback when Dante Warren stepped in to start at midseason.

“Dante coming in and playing well was key,” Shackleford said. “I think getting guys healthy helped too.”

Shackleford said he expects as many as 19 players from this year’s team to possibly be back for the 2014 season.

“There aren’t a lot of jobs out there anymore,” Shackleford said. “AFL guys sign two-year contracts, and they’ll wait for the NFL cuts to sign guys. If our guys want to play, it’s either the Canadian Football League or here.”

Shackleford’s contract with the Fever expires on Aug. 31, but both he and Carr hope to have something figured out well before then.

He still wants to coach here, and Carr still wants him here.

“I’m kind of staying out of it and letting my representative deal with it,” Shackleford said. “Right now, I’m working like I’m going to be here. We’ve started recruiting. We’re winding down the end of this season, and then we’ll talk about it. Right now, we’re trying to get guys out of here. Hopefully (signing) happens in July some time and then we can move things forward.”

Fever defensive backs Lionell Singleton and Rudell Crim were named to the first-team All-IFL defensive unit last week.

Singleton led the league with nine interceptions, while Crim finished second with eight.

“I was a little surprised we got both,” Shackleford said. “Both are dseserving. But I didn’t think we’d get two on there — especially Rudell with him missing three games.”

League semifinals: Jameel Sewell’s 13-yard touchdown scamper early in the third quarter gave Nebraska the lead for good at 31-24, and the Danger went on to beat the visiting Colorado Ice 55-50 to take the Intense Conference championship last Saturday. Sewell, Nebraska’s quarterback and a strong candidate for league MVP honors, finished with 58 yards rushing and three touchdowns. He also passed for 128 yards and two TDs. ... Tyler Knight had a team-high nine tackles and led a smothering Sioux Falls defense in holding the Cedar Rapids Titans to just 20 points in a 44-20 Storm victory to win the United Conference championship last Saturday. Wide receiver James Terry had a strong game, catching eight passes for 123 yards and two TDs for the Storm.

League awards: Nebraska was named the franchise of the year, and Danger general manager Mike McCoy was named the IFL Executive of the Year. ... Best fan base went to the Cedar Rapids Titans, who averaged 4,182 fans per game. ... The Green Bay Blizzard’s game-day operations team earned the league’s top honor in that catagory for the second consecutive season. ... The Texas Revolution had the league’s top cheerleader/dance team, and the Wyoming Cavalry earned the league’s Community Relations Award for the team’s involvement in its community.