05/19/2016 4:02 PM
The Tri-Cities Fever gets a final chance to ends its drought against the Spokane Empire on Friday night at Spokane Arena. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m.
This will be the fourth meeting of the season between the two Intense Conference rivals with Spokane winning the first three matchups.
Tri-Cities (3-8) is coming off a 49-44 loss to Billings and needs to finish strong to have a chance to return to the playoffs for a second straight season.
“We just have to continue to work and get better,” said defensive lineman Brandon Rankin after Saturday’s loss to the Wolves. “We need to find a way to mesh and play better together as a team in all areas.”
The Fever has lost four straight games, two of those in that stretch have been to the Empire (8-2), which is coming off a loss to Sioux Falls.
The last time these two teams met, Spokane used a big second half to pull out the win in Spokane on April 29. Tri-Cities led 31-18 at halftime, but that lead quickly got away as the Empire outscored the Fever 28-11 in the third quarter to take control of the game.
“We have just got to keep playing,” running back Rob Brown said. “We have been hurting ourselves with turnovers and our own mistakes.”
In the loss against Billings last week, the Fever led 36-26 at halftime, but managed just eight second-half points as the Wolves rallied. Despite the slow third quarter, the Fever battled back and closed the margin to within two with 11:09 left on an 8-yard touchdown catch by Dejuan Miller from Hunter Wanket. The Fever had several chances late in the game to get the go-ahead score, but threw interceptions in the end zone on its last two possessions.
All three meetings between the Fever and Empire have been competitive. In the first meeting between the teams on opening night, Spokane used a burst in the fourth quarter to pull away for a 60-51 win. The game was tied at 39 with 13:48 remaining.
In the second meeting, the Fever fell behind 20-0 in the first quarter and could not recover in a 52-39 loss. Then in the last meeting, it was that big third quarter by the Empire that made the difference.
“We just have to play a whole game,” Rankin said. “We are doing well in spots, but we need to get it going all at the same time.”
Notes: The Empire is 5-0 at home this season; the Fever is 1-4 on the road ... Tri-Cities is two games behind Billings and Nebraska in the playoff chance. Both teams are tied for second place at 5-6. The top three teams advance to the playoffs ... The Fever added defensive linemen Dame Ndiaye (6-foot-4, 255 pounds) and Roosevelt Holliday (6-2, 305) to its roster this week. In addition, the Fever added receiver Thomas Speller (6-0, 175) and released offensive lineman Lemone Buford ... The Empire ranks third in the league in scoring offense at 58.3 points per game, while the Fever ranks third in scoring defense, allowing 46.2 points per game ... Spokane ranks fourth in the league in total offense (270.8 yards per game); the Fever is last at 209.4 yards per game ... Brown is tied for first in the IFL in kick returns, averaging 22.4 yards per return; Dee Maggitt Jr. is fifth at 19.5 ... Maggitt is tied for second in the league in interceptions with six; Boubacar Cissoko is fourth with five