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Shock, Yard Dawgz battle in Arena

Spokane puts its unbeaten record on the line against Oklahoma City on Friday. Read on for my unedited game preview that will run in Friday’s S-R.

Also, the Tri-Cities Fever, Spokane’s closest geographic rival, may not be around in 2010..


By Jim Meehan

Staff writer

A Spokane-Oklahoma City arenafootball2 matchup in early May would have been ideal. Two unbeatens, top two in the rankings, playing for bragging rights and home-field advantage in the playoffs.

The matchup in early June would have been so-so. Spokane was still undefeated. The Yard Dawgz dropped five straight games in May and plummeted in the poll.

The matchup tonight looks pretty darn entertaining. Spokane continues to steamroll opponents – 10 of its 11 wins are by double digits – while retaining the No.1 ranking all season. No. 11 Oklahoma City (7-5) is back on a roll, winning three straight, including a franchise-record 93-point outburst against Corpus Christi last week. Corpus Christi beat the Yard Dawgz last month.

Kickoff is at 7 at the Arena.

“This will be a tremendous test for our defense,” Shock head coach Adam Shackleford said. “This team is capable of scoring in a lot of different ways. Defensively, they do some things that could give us some problems if we don’t protect (quarterback) Nick (Davila).”

Spokane has been doing a lot of things right lately. The Shock’s last three games have produced their three most lopsided wins, but two of those were against 1-11 Tri-Cities. Spokane’s remaining five opponents are a combined 37-22 and two (Wilkes-Barre/Scranton and Iowa) lead their divisions.

“We’ve been tested, but I don’t think we’ve been tested enough for me to feel that we’re a team that can relax,” Shackleford said. “This is the beef of our schedule.”

The Yard Dawgz have scored 62 points or more seven times. Quarterback Robert Kent has tossed 65 touchdown passes and rushed for nine scores and 294 yards, second in af2. Davila (128.0) and Kent (127.5) rank one-two in passing efficiency.

The similarities carry over to receiver where Oklahoma City’s Al Hunt has 978 yards and 28 touchdowns and Spokane’s Raul Vijil has 1,048 yards and 25 TDs. Hunt’s 210 career touchdowns ranks No. 1 on af2’s all-time list.

“He’s kind of a true throwback ironman,” Shackleford said. “He plays receiver, ‘Jack’ (linebacker), takes snaps under center at the goal line. He’s certainly capable of controlling a game.”

Notes

Shock receiver Charles Dillon (ankle) will be a game-day decision. Dillon, who missed last week’s game, practiced the last few days. … As of Thursday morning, about 1,300 tickets were still available. … Shackleford earned his 40th af2 career coaching win last week. … Af2 president Jerry Kurz will attend tonight’s game. … Oklahoma City is fifth in sacks with 26, led by Aaron Chavers’ 7.5.

 


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Jim Allen Sports reporter Jim Allen's primary coverage areas are Eastern Washington University football and men's basketball, and college and high school soccer. He also contributes to the SportsLink Blog.

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