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Shock notebook

Back with an unedited notebook after attending Spokane's Tuesday practice. Read more about the demise of the AFL, the war of words leading up to Saturday's game with Boise and an injury update below.


By Jim Meehan

Staff writer

Spokane Shock players and coaches were disappointed but not surprised by numerous media reports that the Arena Football League might have played its last game.

The AFL, which canceled its 2009 season while trying to work out a new business model, is on the brink of folding and declaring bankruptcy, the Associated Press reported. The 22-year-old league is the next rung up the professional ladder for players thriving with Spokane and 24 other teams in arenafootball2.

“My hopes weren’t up for it to come back,” linebacker Kevin McCullough said. “The UFL (United Football League) is going to play, there are still some spots in that league. The CFL is always around, the NFL, so there are still opportunities.”

Four-year Shock receiver Raul Vijil was in line for an AFL promotion after the 2008 season. Instead, he’s putting up big numbers again for the Shock and he’s doing well as a financial advisor.

“It was tough because it was something I had been working for and had been a goal of mine and I felt it was in my grasp,” said Vijil, an Eastern Washington University product. “But things happen all the time. That’s life and you move on.”

Vijil is focused on the af2 playoffs, which continue with top-ranked Spokane (16-1) entertaining Boise (13-4) on Saturday.

“I have something good going on the side (with work) and I’m having a great time playing in Spokane,” he said. “You never know, it could be my last year. I do have some decisions to make.”

Shock head coach Adam Shackleford anticipates some version of the AFL to return in the near future because numerous AFL franchises want to continue.

“It’s going to make a lot of players available next year and it’s going to make it very interesting and competitive,” he said.  

Shackleford believes af2 is on solid footing, though there has been speculation that at least 5-6 teams are struggling financially.

“We have a tremendous business model and strong ownership groups and a league that does the right things,” he said. “I feel like we’re very safe.”

McCullough is willing to play the waiting game.

“There’s talk about combining the better teams from our league with a couple of AFL teams,” he said. “I’m playing football because I love it and I’d like to get back to the outdoor game at some point.”

Words apart

The Shock read with interest post-game comments from Boise coach Brent Winter after the Burn’s 77-36 playoff win over Arkansas. Spokane is 3-0 against the Burn, two of which (64-62 in May and 56-51 two weeks ago) came down to the closing seconds.

“Our guys want Spokane,” Winter told the Idaho Statesman. “You can see it in their eyes. They think we’ve been robbed twice this year by the football gods, so they want Spokane really bad.”

Shackleford said the Shock “certainly appreciate the bulletin-board material.”

McCullough was typically blunt.

Boise feels like they’ve been cheated out of a couple of victories against us,” he said. “That’s too bad for them because we gave them every chance to win those games. If we come out and play our ‘A’ game, I don’t think they stand a chance.”

Excused absence

Linemen/fullback Johnie Kirton missed practice Tuesday to try out for the Las Vegas team in the UFL. He was expected to return today and be available for Saturday’s game.

McCullough (knee, ankle), Justin Warren (knee) and Sergio Gilliam (groin) were mostly spectators at practice, but all three are expected to play against Boise.

Gilliam intercepted three passes in Spokane’s 62-21 win over Stockton to earn af2 defensive player of the week honors.


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Jim Meehan
Jim Meehan joined The Spokesman-Review in 1990. Jim is currently a reporter for the Sports Desk and covers Gonzaga University basketball, Spokane Empire football, college volleyball and golf.

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