The 2014 edition of the Tri-Cities Fever will make its debut Friday night against the visiting Wyoming Cavalry.
Coach Adam Shackleford boasts 16 veterans returning to a squad that finished 6-8 in 2013, missing the Indoor Football League playoffs for the first time in four years.
That squad was banged up pretty hard during training camp, and it took a while for the team to recover from those injuries and a change in quarterback for things to click.
By the time things clicked, however, the hole was too deep for the Fever to make the playoffs.
This season already has been different, as injuries in training camp have been few.
The Herald will take a look at the 2014 Fever in Friday’s paper.
Meanwhile, here’s a look at the rest of the league’s team, some of them who started IFL play last weekend:
Robert Fuller, a two-time IFL coach of the year, is the leader of this expansion franchise. ... WR Ryan Balentine was a second-team All-IFL pick at Green Bay last season. ... WR Maurice Patterson, RB Thomas Gordon and K Josiah Powell were all with Wyoming last season.
CEDAR RAPIDS TITANS
Mark Stoute is back after signing a two-year deal as head coach. ... Another veteran-laden team, including All-IFL selections RB LaRon Council, WR Carl Sims, DL Xzavie Jackson. ... Former Fever OL Jason Donnal is playing with the Titans.
Head coach Heron O’Neil has first-team All-IFL receiver Kyle Kaiser returning, as is quarterback Willie Copeland. ... Former Fever players RB Dennis Kennedy and LB Joe Thornton are on the roster. ... WR Jasonus Tillery, who starred with Wyoming two seasons ago, is with the Ice now.
GREEN BAY BLIZZARD
Chad Baldwin returns as head coach after replacing Robert Fuller in mid-season last year. ... LB Derek Earls, who spent time with the Vikings, returns.
The Danger made it to the United Bowl last season, only to lose to Sioux Falls. Head coach Mike Davis returns a vetrean-laden lineup. ... Last year’s IFL MVP, QB Jameel Sewell, is back. ... Other all-leaguers returning include WR Kayne Farquharson, OL Darius Savage and kicker Joe Houston. ... If Sewell gets hurt, Davis can turn to backup QB Cody Kirby, who was a second-team All-IFL pick last season for now-defunct Chicago. ... Troy Evans, who was a standout for Wyoming last year and a second-team All-IFL pick, is a running back. ... WR Andre Piper-Jordan, who has given the Fever fits the last few seasons playing for different teams, is also back.
SIOUX FALLS STORM
Biggest news here is QB Chris Dixon, after spending last season in the Arena Football League, returns to lead the Storm’s offense. ... Like the Danger, this is a lineup loaded with all-stars: OL Miniya Smith, OL Charlie Sanders, LB Tyler Knight and K Parker Douglass were first-team All-IFL picks last season. DB Roy Polite was a second-team pick. ... The Storm has won the last three United Bowls.
New coach Chris Williams — who is not really new, being a veteran coach in the IFL and the old NIFL before — dealt for WR Clinton Solomon last week. Solomon was a standout for Sioux Falls last season. ... DB Frankie Solomon Jr., a first-team All-IFL DB and a second-team kick returner, returns for the Revs.
Ryan Lingenfelder, the former Fever defensive coordinator, returns for his second season as head coach. ... Veteran LB Bruna Foster, who had some good games vs. Tri-Cities last season, returns. So does OL Walter Stuller.
Last week’s IFL contests
Sioux Falls 52, Nebraska 35: Dixon picked up right where he left off two seasons ago, tossing four touchdown passes and rushing for another to lead the host Storm. Nebraska’s Sewell got hurt in the second quarter and never returned for the Danger. Backup Maurice Avery passed for three TDs.
Texas 47, Cedar Rapids 38: Solomon returned an interception 10 yards for a touchdown to give host Texas the lead for good. He finished the game with three picks. Revs QB Jimmy Coy passed for five TDs. Carl Sims caught eight passes for 114 yards for the Titans.
Bemidji 40, Green Bay 36: DeMario Pippen’s 16-yard touchdown run with 7:02 to play gave the host Axemen the lead for good over the Blizzard. Balantine caught four passes for 72 yards and a score for Bemidji.