Adam Shackleford looks at Saturday night’s Indoor Football League game against the Iowa Barnstormers in the Toyota Center as more than just a final regular-season contest.
His Tri-Cities Fever has lost three consecutive games, sits at 7-6 and has a scheduled playoff contest on the road against the Nebraska Danger on June 26.
What Shackleford says his team needs is a win Saturday heading into that playoff game.
“This is imperative for us to win this game,” he said. “I know personally and professionally I need that. I think we need that.”
But he likes what he’s seen this week after the team’s 59-38 loss at Sioux Falls last Saturday.
“I felt we competed well,” said Shackleford. “We were depleted, and that’s no excuse. At the same time, we had a lot of new guys step up. Practice (Tuesday) was very intense, some of the veterans coming off of (injured reserve) really picked it up after watching what some of the new guys did on film.”
What Shackleford didn’t like was his team’s slow start against the unbeaten Storm. The Fever trailed 33-7 at one point in the game.
“We had a slow start, too many turnovers in the first half,” said Shackleford. “Our first drive was outstanding. But the problem was we got behind by 21 and we couldn’t run the football anymore.”
That didn’t help Dominique Blackman, a young rookie starting at quarterback for the Fever.
So Shackleford gave newly acquired Patrick McCain a shot late in the second quarter.
He responded with four TD passes.
“I thought Patrick gave us a spark,” Shackleford said. “He’ll be the starter (Saturday). Dominique just struggled.”
McCain only had two-and-a-half practices with the Fever leading up to his performance.
“In reality, I wasn’t surprised by his demeanor,” said Shackleford. “I was surprised by his early success. He ran the ball very well. We didn’t expect that. We needed a spark. We have the least experienced quarterback system in the league of all the playoff teams.”
Though the team lost, it was a great experience for the Fever and could help the team down the road, said Shackleford.
“It was a great environment for football,” he said. “Our guys witnessed what I think is the best venue in football. It is a brand new stadium. If we can win in Nebraska in two weeks, we have experienced the place.”
And they won’t be intimidated or awestruck.
• Fever kicker Brady Beeson said his friends, former Cleveland Browns kicker Billy Cundiff and his wife, will be attending Tri-Cities’ game Saturday.
“We are doing a fundraiser for Kicking For The Dream, which is a project (Colleen’s Dream Foundation) he and I will be running to fund young researchers in their efforts to find early ovarian cancer detection,” said Beeson.
Each time Beeson makes a kick Saturday night, it’s a chance to raise money for the Foundation.
Beeson and Cundiff will also be kicking together in the arena at 2 p.m. today.
For more information, go to www.KickingForTheDream.com. You can pledge money for each Beeson kick Saturday or pledge regardless of any kick.