Tri-Cities Fever wins the National Indoor Football League Championship in its first year on July 30, 2005.

  • By Elizabeth Gibson
  • Posted 10/12/2005
  • Essay 7511
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On July 30, 2005, the Tri-Cities Fever wins the National Indoor Football League championship in its first year of existence. Tri-Cities overcame early season difficulties and personnel changes to beat the Rome Renegades 47-31. A near-capacity crowd fills the Tri-Cities Coliseum in Kennewick to witness the dramatic finish.

The National Indoor Football League (NIFL) announced plans for a Tri-City area team in October 2004. Home games would be played at the Tri-Cities Coliseum in Kennewick. Area residents were excited to have a professional football team in the Tri-Cities. The NIFL is an arena-style game, played on a field just 50 yards long and 28 feet wide. The small size of the field generally means frequent touchdowns and high scoring games. Each team fields eight men, three of whom are linemen. Scoring and penalties are handled approximately the same as in the National Football League. There are 24 teams in the league.

Team owners, Terri Carr and J. R. Carr and Randy and Annette Schillinger, held tryouts on October 30, 2004, at Kamiakin High School in Kennewick. They were looking for a mix of local players and experienced veterans. Some local players selected were Jeremy Bohannon and Josh Jelmberg from Richland; Tyler Thomas and Josh Jelinek from Prosser; Scott Mitchell, Ron Childs, and Jason Cobb from Kennewick. 

The team was coached by Craig Beverlin, who for 21 years coached at Kamiakin High School. He was assisted by Offensive Coordinator Tom Moore from Prosser High School and Defensive Coordinator Tom Maher, also from Kamiakin.

Things looked promising when the Fever won its first game at home against Corpus Christi, 47-46. But that game was followed by two losses. 

Then controversy surrounded the team when Head Coach Beverlin quit the team over differences in player selection. General Manager Dareld Lookabill quit at the same time. Terri Carr selected special teams coach Dan Whitsett to fill in as interim coach. A day later, quarterback Scott Mitchell left the team. He thought management was discriminating against local players. Tyler Thomas took over the starting quarterback position.

The Fever faced the Casper Cavalry the following week. Thomas broke his wrist during that game, in which they lost 36-24. Three other key players were injured.

Quarterback Doug Coleman joined the team in time for the fifth game against the River City Rage, winning that game 67-52. He had retired from football when the Fever invited him to play. His decision to come to the Tri-Cities is a key reason why the team had such success. The team went 7-3 for the final ten games of the season.

One of the most exciting games of the year was the last home game of the year against the Lincoln Capitals. The Fever scored the highest point total of any team this season when it beat Lincoln 100-17. The team was able to capitalize on seven turnovers by the Capitals. During regular season games, local sponsors paid $50 to the defensive player that tackles the other team inside the 15 yard line on kickoffs. Paris Moore made $150 during this game.

The Fever finished the regular season 9-5, not bad for its first year of play. During the first round of the playoffs, the Fever bested Casper 49-46. In the second round, Tri-Cities had to face Everett, an undefeated team that topped them twice during the regular season. But the Fever got tough and edged by them 54-52 in the final seconds of the game. On July 24, the Fever took Odessa, another undefeated team, for the Pacific Conference championship, 41-39.

Because the Fever had an overall better record, the championship was played in Kennewick.  Indoor Bowl V pitted the Tri-Cities Fever against the Rome (Georgia) Renegades, the Atlantic Conference champions. Rome had a 7-7 regular season record. Tickets to the game sold out in two days and crowd of 5,796 filled the stands. 

As with the previous home games, the pre-game show featured the Fever dancers being driven onto the field on Harley Davidson motorcycles. This was followed by a spotlight introduction of the players of both teams. In just a matter of moments, Drew Dunning kicked the ball to the visiting team.

Rome got the ball first, but was stopped by the defense in each of its first two possessions by defensive captain Ron Childs and Michael Romero. It took the Fever just two plays to score when Coleman threw a touchdown pass to Mike Rigell. The Fever's second score came on a one-yard run by Coleman. Rome answered with an eight-yard yard pass to Clenton Rafe. After that Josh Jelmberg received one of two touchdown passes he would have in the game. Score at the end of the first quarter: 21-7.

At the beginning of the second quarter, the Fever defense forced a safety when pressuring Rome quarterback Bo Bartik. Eventually Rome scored a field goal by Brian Tracy. The field goal was followed by a one-yard touchdown run by Fever star running back Jarvis Dunn.

The Fever had its share of turnovers, but the only time Rome could capitalize on them came late in the first half when a fumble gave Rome the ball. Travis Booker ran it in from three yards out to give Rome 17 points. The half ended with a 28-yard field goal from Tri-Cities Drew Dunning that brought the halftime score to 33-17.

The Tri-Cities was a bit flat at the beginning of the third quarter, and Rome capitalized. Reserve Rome quarterback John Revere threw a pass to Perry Tisdale who scored from two yards out. He also ran in the football for a two-point conversion. Tri-Cities did not score in third quarter, which ended with a score of 33-25.

At the beginning of the fourth quarter, Renegade Clenton Rafe received an eight-yard pass for another score, threatening the Fever's slim lead of 33-31. The crowd held its breath as Rome went for another two-point conversion for a possible tie. But the Fever defense stood strong and kept Perry Tisdale out of the end zone. 

Coleman answered with a five-yard touchdown pass to Jelmberg, making the score 40-31. The final score in the game came at 2:48 in the fourth quarter. Coleman threw a pass to Sonte Wong from his own end zone, which resulted in a 48-yard touchdown run for Wong. Final score: 47-31.

At the end of the game, hundreds of balloons dropped as the crowd swarmed the field. League president, Carolyn Shiver, was on hand to present the championship trophy. She expressed surprise at the two teams that played for the championship this year, but was pleased with their performance. She mentioned that the league intends to recruit at least four more northwest teams, two of which would likely be Spokane and Boise.

Coleman completed 22 of 37 pass attempts for 282 yards and four touchdowns. Rigell was the leading receiver with nine catches for 106 yards.

Sources: Jahmal Corner, "Tri-Cities Fever Takes Shape,"Tri-City Herald (Kennewick), October 5, 2004, p. C-1; Jack Millikin, "Tri-City Players Key to Large Crowd," Ibid., March 27, 2005, page C-1; Jeff Morrow, "Fever Fires Beverlin," Ibid., April 6, 2005, p. C-1; Jeff Morrow, "Fever Starting Quarterback Quits Team," Ibid., April 7, 2005, p. C-1; Herald staff, "Fever Quarterback Thomas Injured in Loss to Cavalry," Ibid., April 9, 2005, p. D-1; Jahmal Corner, "Veteran QB Leads Way as Fever Knock Off Rage," Ibid., April 17, 2005, page D-1; Jeff Morrow, "Fever Rolls Off 100-17 Victory," Ibid., June 19, 2005, p. D-1; Jeff Morrow, "One Season = One Title," Ibid., July 31, 2005, p. D-1; Jahmal Corner, "Defensive Unit Shines for Fever in Title Quest," Ibid., July 31, 2005, p. D-5; Jeff Morrow, "NIFL President Surprised by Indoor Bowl V Finalists," Ibid., July 31, 2005, p. D-5; Tri-Cities Fever Football Souvenir Program; "Tri-Cities Fever," Sports website accessed October 9, 2005 ( football/fever).

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