By Curt Cartier, Tri-Cities Fever
The Tri-Cities Fever welcomes an old familiar foe to the Toyota Center on Friday night.
For the first time in nearly seven years, the Wyoming Cavalry returns to the Tri-Cities to take on the Fever in a key Intense Conference matchup. Kickoff is set for 7:05 p.m. PDT.
The Fever and Cavalry have a long history together dating back to 2005 when both teams played in the National Indoor Football League. The last time these two teams met was a 2006 playoff game in which the Fever beat the Cavalry. Since that time, a lot that has changed. For starters, the teams have changed leagues, coaches and have seen players come and go. But for as much that has changed since the last time these two teams met, some things are going to look very familiar Friday.
Despite some struggles in the past, both teams are two of the model franchises in the Indoor Football League and among the best the league has to offer. The Fever (4-0) is looking to continue its best start in franchise history, coming off a 54-48 win last Thursday at Everett. Meanwhile, the Cavalry (1-3) is off to a little bit of a slow start, but coming off its first win of the season, beating the Nebraska Danger last weekend. In the Cavalry's win last week, quarterback Matt Strand completed 20 of 30 passes for 185 yards and six touchdowns. That is the same Matt Strand who quarterbacked the Cavalry the last time the two teams met nearly six years ago. Strand, an indoor football veteran, is among the league leaders this season again in touchdown passes and passing yards and been a staple to the Cavalry's success over the past 8-plus seasons.
The Cavalry has a few other faces that should be familiar to Fever fans. Defensive back/kicker returner Emery Beckles and Karl Kuhau-Liftee are both former Fever players. The coach on the opposing sideline should look familiar as well. Dan Maciejczak, who is now in his sixth season at Wyoming, was the coach of the Everett Hawks in 2005 when the Fever spoiled its perfect season on a last-second field goal on the way to the NIFL title. In 2006, the Fever battled another Maciejczak team when he was the coach of the Rapid City Flying Aces. Since the Cavalry left the NIFL in 2006 and Maciejczak took over, he led the Cavalry to four straight title games in the American Indoor Football Association. Maciejczak at a couple of points along the way was also strongly considered as a candidate to coach the Fever.
But right now that is Adam Shackleford's job and has been for the past two seasons as he has lifted the Fever to be among the league's elite. Tri-Cities is one of two remaining undefeated teams in the IFL this season and looking to extend its winning streak to five.
Notes: The Fever ranks second in the league in scoring at 56.5 points per game; Wyoming is seventh at 45.8 points per game … The Fever is allowing 41.3 points per game, Wyoming allows 59.3 (second highest in the IFL) … Fever running back Dennis Kennedy (493 yards) and receiver Steven Whitehead (485) rank third and fourth, respectively in the IFL in total yards.
Strand ranks first in the league with 21 touchdown passes, Fever QB Houston Lillard is second with 18 … Lillard ranks third in the league in rushing yards with 176 and is tied for the league lead with 7 rushing TDs … Whitehead leads the league with 33 receptions and is second with 9 TD catches … Lionell Singleton leads the league with six interceptions.