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Shock visit Cleveland

The Spokane Shock are traveling to Cleveland today for Saturday’s contest with the Gladiators. The Shock’s roster juggling continued this week as Ben McCombs (pictured above) and Quorey Payne went on injured-reserve.

More on that below in my unedited preview.

UPDATE: Almost forgot to mention that ex-Shockie Kevin McCullough, who was put on recallable reassignment earlier this week, was recalled by Oklahoma City. Interestingly, OKC also added another linebacker, Turna Nande (6-1, 245), who is nearly the exact same size as McCullough, on the same day. Also, former Shock kicker Brian Jackson is back on Alabama’s active roster (seems like he’s been off and on a couple times this season).

By Jim Meehan, (208) 765-7131

No Ben McCombs. No Raul Vijil. No Quorey Payne, Markee White, Harrison Nikolao, Antonio Narcisse, Erik Meyer.

The Spokane Shock have a pretty good lineup on injured-reserve. Somehow, they’ve managed to overcome a rash of injuries and fashion an eight-game winning streak entering tonight’s contest against Cleveland at Quicken Loans Arena.

The latest challenge will be replacing McCombs, the standout defensive end who went down with a knee injury in Spokane’s 37-36 win over Arizona last Friday. McCombs has a severe hyperextension and Payne sprained his ankle in practice, according to head coach Rob Keefe.

“I’m happy there’s no ‘CL’ involved, as in ACL, MCL, PCL or LCL,” Keefe said. “Hopefully we can get Ben back in four weeks.”

Jeremy Geathers will replace McCombs.

“It’s definitely a big hit, Ben’s done a lot of things for this organization last year and this season,” defensive coordinator Alex Sirianni said. “Jeremy is ready to play. He’s been getting 15-16 snaps, now he’ll be getting the majority.”

The Shock (10-2) can clinch the West Division title with a win and an Arizona loss to Chicago. Spokane is one game in front of No. 1 Tampa Bay (9-3) in the race for best overall record and the right to host the ArenaBowl should it survive two rounds of the playoffs.

“Every single game is going to mean something,” Keefe said.

This one also means something for No. 8 Cleveland (6-7), which must win to stay in the playoff chase. The Gladiators were 0-3 when they upset Spokane on Brent Holmes’ last-second kickoff return. They’ve won two of their last three to move into the sixth spot in the National Conference hierarchy. The top four advance to the postseason.

Quarterback John Dutton has 84 touchdown passes to go with 16 interceptions. Ben Nelson, with 1,795 receiving yards, is on his way to cracking 2,000. Chris Johnson and Holmes have already eclipsed 1,000 receiving yards.

“Sometimes (Dutton) can be inconsistent but he’s won two ArenaBowls,” Keefe said. “The coach (Steve Thonn) is an innovator. They have a great line, great receivers. They’re an offensive team. I think their weakness is their defense. If we can get 1, 2, 3 stops, I think we’ll be OK.”

Spokane’s Greg Orton, who was cut in training camp and rejoined the team two weeks ago, will start at receiver with Huey Whittaker and Emery Sammons. Shaun Kauleinamoku also will suit up.

“I don’t think we should have cut him,” Keefe said, “but it was a tough cut because we were stacked up at receiver at the beginning of the year.”

Mervin Brookins, who serves as the fourth defensive back, will handle kick returns. He averaged 22.1 yards per return for arenafootball2 Stockton last season.

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Jim Meehan (@srjimm) 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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Chris Derrick Chris Derrick is a sports reporter. His primary coverage areas are the Spokane Chiefs, Spokane Indians, women's basketball and high school softball and volleyball. He also contributes to the SportsLink Blog.

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Sean Kramer Sean Kramer is a freelance correspondent who covers the University of Idaho football team and men's basketball team.

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Vince Grippi is the online producer for SportsLink, a product of The Spokesman-Review.

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