05/12/2016 1:39 PM
The Tri-Cities Fever has struggled of late, losing three straight games. That’s the not-so good news.
So here’s just the good news. With a win over the Billings Wolves on Saturday night at the Toyota Center, the Fever will slide into the third and final playoff spot in the conference with five games remaining in the regular season.
The Fever (3-7) is currently a game behind the Wolves (4-6), and a 1½ games behind defending conference champion Nebraska for the second spot. A win over Billings would lock-up the season series for the Fever, and Tri-Cities would hold all tiebreakers against the Wolves should the two teams finish in a tie at the end of the regular season.
Tri-Cities won the first meeting of the season between the two teams 47-41 in Kennewick back on March 5. The two teams have a final meeting in Billings on June 18.
Billings has faced some similar struggles to the Fever as of late, losing two straight games after winning two games in a row. The Wolves suffered its worst loss of the season last week in a 75-28 loss to the first-place Spokane Empire. The previous week, the Wolves lost 38-31 at home to Cedar Rapids.
After beating the Colorado Crush on April 15, the Fever lost a pair of competitive games to the Empire before suffering a 58-17 road loss to Cedar Rapids last week. The Fever managed just one offensive touchdown in the contest and that did not come until early in the fourth quarter.
If Tri-Cities wants to prove it belongs in the playoffs, the offense needs to get off to a quick start. The Fever offenses ranks second-to-last in points scored per game at 39.6 and last in total yards per game at 207.7. On the other side, Billings ranks last in scoring at 38.2 points per game and second in total yards at 217.6.
In the first meeting between the two teams, Tri-Cities led by as many as 19 points in the fourth quarter before feverish comeback by the Wolves. Billings eventually grabbed the lead at 41-40 with 19 seconds left in the game before Pat McCain scored on a 3-yard run with 8 seconds remaining to give the Fever its first win of the season.
Notes: The Fever is 2-3 at home this season; Billings is 2-3 on the road this season … Billings ranks first in the league in scoring defense, allowing 44.1 points per game; Tri-Cities is third at 45.9 … Billings and Tri-Cities rank second and fourth, respectively in the IFL in total defense … The Fever defense first against the pass (135.1 yards per game), but last against the rush at 105.5 yards per game … Dee Maggitt Jr. is tied for the league lead in interceptions with 7.