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Shock won't ease across finish line

Spokane's Raul Vijil wears a grin as he scampers into the end zone with just seconds left in the first half, making it 28-28 against a tough Wilkes-Barre/Scranton team Saturday, July 11, 2009, at the Spokane Arena. (Jesse Tinsley / The Spokesman-Review)
Spokane's Raul Vijil wears a grin as he scampers into the end zone with just seconds left in the first half, making it 28-28 against a tough Wilkes-Barre/Scranton team Saturday, July 11, 2009, at the Spokane Arena. (Jesse Tinsley / The Spokesman-Review)

Checked in on the Shock at Tuesday's practice and put together a notebook that will run in Wednesday's S-R. Take a look at the unedited version below.

 

By Jim Meehan

Staff writer

There is no rest-vs.-rust debate as far as the Spokane Shock are concerned.

Spokane has clinched the West Division title and the opportunity to stay at home for the first three rounds of the arenafootball2 playoffs. That won’t change whether the top-ranked Shock (14-1) win or lose Saturday’s road game against Boise (12-3).

As practice was winding down Tuesday, head coach Adam Shackleford told his players, “This isn’t a mess-around game. This isn’t a warm-up game for the playoffs.”

In other words, Shackleford is treating this game just like any other on the 16-game schedule.

“We want to win,” he said. “There is a recruiting battle (for players) between us and Boise every year. I don’t like the idea of sitting a guy and asking him to get back in the flow the following week.”

There are two schools of thought for teams that have wrapped up seeds and hosting rights before reaching the finish line of the regular season. In 2006, ex-Shock coach Chris Siegfried rested a couple of key players and considered limiting quarterback Kyle Rowley to two quarters against Rio Grande Valley. However, Rowley ended up playing most of the way in a Shock win and the team went on to capture the ArenaCup.

Last year, Spokane clinched the division crown and top seed in the playoffs prior to the regular season finale against Boise. Shackleford played his starters, but opted to rest quarterback Nick Davila in the fourth quarter of a 63-48 victory. Spokane rolled to three easy playoff wins before falling short in the ArenaCup.

“It always helps to go into the playoffs on a run,” Davila said. “It’s been a fact in any sport when a team is on a winning streak it’s a good sign for them. For me, I need live reps to stay sharp.”

Prior engagement

Spokane will be without standout receiver Raul Vijil, who will be the best man in his best friend’s wedding Saturday in Snohomish, Wash. Vijil told Shackleford before the season of his plans and the coach had no objection.

“It was a huge relief last week (winning against Central Valley). I kept waiting and we finally won the division title and then I heard Boise and Tulsa lost,” said Vijil, referring to outcomes that secured Spokane’s No. 1 seeding in the playoffs.

Joked Davila: “I’ve been telling (Vijil) all week I’m not throwing to him in practice.”

Spokane played without starting lineman Jerome Stevens in the 2006 ArenaCup because he was getting married in Ocean Shores, Wash., on game day.

Defensive back Virgil Gray will fill in for Vijil on kick returns. Gray handled two kicks against Central Valley, returning one 58 yards for a touchdown. Gray also had a 26-yard interception return.

“I played for Lubbock last year and kind of split time (on kick returns),” Gray said. “I love returning because I feel like I’m a playmaker with the ball in my hands.”

Notes

Defensive back Aaron Williams (knee) and receiver Andy Olson (ribs) practiced Tuesday. Shackleford said their status will be determined later this week. Williams is returning from knee surgery while Olson’s ribs have been bothersome for several weeks. … Friends and relatives of Shock players gobbled up more than 200 tickets for the Central Valley game in Fresno. Davila had 40 ticket requests while defensive end Ben McCombs had 30.

 




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Jim Meehan
Jim Meehan's coverage areas include Gonzaga University men's basketball, Spokane Shock football, golf and volleyball. He also contributes to the SportsLink Blog.

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