The Tri-Cities Fever returns home Saturday night to take on its rival to the north, the Spokane Empire. Kickoff is 7:05 p.m. at the Toyota Center.
This is the second four meetings between the two teams this season, and the first of a back-to-back which the Fever will be at Spokane on Friday, April 29.
The first time these two teams met, it had all the storylines. Former coach Adam Shackleford, now coach of the expansion Empire, returns to Kennewick with his new team. He was facing his former defensive coordinator Ryan Lingenfelder, who is now the coach of the Fever. And the game itself marked the first time since 2009 that these two cities met on the turf after the organizations went their separate ways after the arenafootball2 league dissolved prior to the 2010 season.
All those storylines are well and good, and all can be reiterated again for this game. But this time it's really more about football and the two teams looking to solidify themselves as a playoff contender as the first half of the season winds down.
The Fever sits at 3-4, tied for third place in the Intense Conference. Spokane is off to a 5-1 start and holds the top spot in the conference.
The Fever is coming off a 39-31 road win over Colorado last weekend, its second win over the Crush in three weeks. Spokane has won three straight games, including a 54-34 win over the Iowa Barnstormers last week.
Spokane got the best of the Fever on opening night with a 60-51 victory. With the scored tied at 39 early in the fourth quarter, the Empire made some key plays late to pull away in a back-and-forth game.
If this season's first seven games are any indication what could happen Saturday night, expect another game that goes down to the wire. The Fever have consistently played in games that were not decided until the final seconds of the fourth quarter. The Fever's three wins have come by a combined 17 points, while its four losses are by a combined 24 points.
Notes: Spokane's only loss this season came at Billings, falling 30-22. The Fever beat Billings 47-41 this season … The Empire signed former Fever kicker Steven Wakefield this week … Empire quarterback Charles Dowdell leads the league in passing touchdowns with 28 … Fever receiver Dejuan Miller is fifth in the IFL in receptions with 34 … The Empire rank second in scoring offense (58.8 points per game), while the Fever is eighth at 41.3 per game … The Fever ranks second in the league in scoring defense, allowing 42.3 points per game; Spokane is sixth at 50.5 … The Empire, led by running back Trevor Kennedy, lead the league in yards per rush (4.7). The Fever ranks second in pass defense, yielding just 126.7 passing yards per game; Spokane ranks last in the league allowing 215.7.