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Spokane tangles with depleted Rush

Spokane returns home after two lengthy, but successful road trips, when it entertains Chicago at 5 p.m. Friday. My unedited advance is below.


By Jim Meehan

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

The Spokane Shock would like to make playing at home and playing on national television a regular occurrence over the next month.

The top-ranked Shock (12-2) put their 10-game winning streak on the line against No. 6 Chicago (10-5) at 5 tonight at the Arena. Spokane made its NFL Network debut last week against Iowa. Tonight’s game and next week’s regular-season finale at Jacksonville will be televised on NFL Network.

A victory would give Spokane the right to host throughout the Arena Football League playoffs and drain most of the drama surrounding next week’s game. Playoff pairings haven’t been finalized, but Spokane certainly wouldn’t harm its post-season chances of being on the NFL Network if it were to secure the AFL’s best record.

Chicago is one of the few teams with an injury list comparable to Spokane’s. The Rush put three-eighths of their starting offense on injured-reserve earlier this week, including standout quarterback Russ Michna (fractured rib). They recently lost standout receiver Samie Parker to the UFL and fullback Robert Boss took a coaching job at Northern Michigan, his alma mater.

Michna had the league’s best completion percentage (68.6) to go with just 11 interceptions. Only Spokane’s Kyle Rowley and Milwaukee’s Chris Greisen have tossed fewer picks (9) among full-time quarterbacks.

J.J. Raterink, who was in the 2006 Shock training camp before being traded to Bossier/Shreveport, is expected to start. Without Michna and Parker, Chicago knocked off Midwest Division rival Milwaukee a month ago as Raterink had five touchdown passes and nearly 300 yards.

“We respect everybody,” Shock coach Rob Keefe said. “I think they’re going to come in confident. J.J. is an AFL quarterback. It’s a must-win for our opponent for the third week in a row so we could see a lot of trick plays.”

Shock defensive back William Mulder won’t play. Mervin Brookins replaces Mulder, whom Keefe wants 100 percent healthy for the playoffs. Tito Hannah, who signed earlier this week, will join the rotation on the defensive line.

The Rush opened the season with four straight wins and was ranked No. 1, but they’ve since gone 6-5. Chicago is the only team in the league with a bye next week.

Notes

Ex-Spokane players Palauni Ma Sun, Nygel Rogers and former Washington State Cougar Chris Martin are key players for the Rush. Rogers and Martin have combined for 13 interceptions and form two-thirds of the starting secondary. Ma Sun has three touchdown receptions at tight end. … Troy Biladeau, the defensive coordinator on Spokane’s 2006 ArenaCup championship team, holds the same title with the Rush. … The Rush are trying to hold off Milwaukee (9-5) in the Midwest Division to earn at least one home playoff date.


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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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