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Spokane holds off Rattlers, 57-49

Spokane made it a little tougher than it needed to be -- after a trick play went south with 4:15 left in the fourth quarter -- but the Shock defense came up with the last of their four stops, preserving a 57-49 playoff win over Arizona on Friday.

Read on for my unedited game story.

By Jim Meehan

jimm@spokesman.com, (208) 765-7131

The Spokane Shock appeared to be in control midway through the fourth quarter, but that just wouldn’t be their style against the Arizona Rattlers.

The teams played two hotly contested Arena Football League regular-season games and their first-round playoff contest Friday turned into a nailbiter after a Shock trick play backfired with just over 4 minutes remaining.

But the Shock defense came up big, forcing four straight incomplete passes by Nick Davila as Spokane held on for a 57-49 victory in front of 8,236 at the Arena. Top-ranked Spokane (14-3) advances to the National Conference championship game Thursday at 5 p.m. against the winner of tonight’s Chicago-Milwaukee game.

No. 7 Arizona finishes 10-7.

After a sluggish start, quarterback Kyle Rowley tossed seven touchdown passes and the defense came up with four stops to help Spokane to its 12th win in 13 games.

This one wasn’t a blowout, but it probably shouldn’t have had as much drama as the first two meetings, won by Spokane 63-56 and 37-36.

“I’m very content that we won the game. I will not be happy until we win the championship,” Shock coach Rob Keefe said. “I thought we had some mental lapses on defense and some poor execution on offense. With that said, I really am proud we won. This is a very good team, Arizona, but let’s finish, let’s execute. I’m going to push these guys.”

Spokane led 57-42 midway the fourth quarter, but Arizona pulled within 57-49 on Rod Windsor’s touchdown catch, his fourth of the second half and fifth overall.

Arizona tried an onside kick, but the Shock took possession at the Rattlers’ 6. The Shock attempted a double-pass, but the plan went awry when Markee White was stripped of the football by Alex Guerrero and the Rattlers recovered at Spokane’s 21.

Arizona moved to the Shock 8, but Davila, the former Spokane quarterback, misfired on four straight passes. He tried to connect with Windsor on fourth down, but William Mulder broke up the pass in the corner of the end zone.

“I had a feeling they were going to go to him, he’s their go-to receiver,” Mulder said. “Like coach Keefe always says, big players make big plays at key times. Fortunately that’s what I was able to do.”

Said Keefe: “That was four very unique coverages that we saved until the last minute. We wanted to confuse Nick tonight and I think we did.”

Spokane scored the last 10 points of the first half to take a 30-20 lead.

Both teams were out of sorts offensively, but managed to overcome fourth-down situations to score on their opening possessions. Then they traded defensive stops before the offenses slowly warmed up.

Spokane led 20-14 on Greg Orton’s touchdown catch with 1:16 left, setting off a battle to see who would get the last meaningful possession of the half.

After a couple of onside kicks and quick touchdowns, Spokane led 27-20 with 37.4 seconds left. The Shock elected to kick deep and Arizona marched to Spokane’s 11 where Davila’s pass was intercepted by Travis Williams at the goal line. Williams returned the ball to the 15, but a pair of penalties brought the ball back to Spokane’s 3 with 9.5 seconds remaining.

“I’m very proud of our defensive line, it starts with them getting pressure, getting sacks and making (Davila) uncomfortable,” Williams said. “In the indoor game, it can be a little hectic out there if you don’t have a good line.”

Spokane reached midfield after Orton’s 12-yard reception and a pass interference penalty on Terrance Sanders. Taylor Rowan booted a 39-yard field goal as time expired, giving Spokane a 10-point lead at the break.

Orton finished with 11 catches for 54 yards and White added 10 receptions for 66 yards. Orton, White and Huey Whittaker each had two touchdown receptions.

Davila was 25 of 43 for 315 yards and six touchdowns. Windsor had 15 catches for 210 yards.




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