The Spokane Shock finally shook the slow starts from their previous three games that they'd overcome with huge second halves.
This time it was Spokane that started fast but was run over in the final 30 minutes. Make that 31 minutes or so as Arizona began its comeback with a successful onside kick recovered by kicker Garrett Lindholm late in the first half. Spokane recovered all but two of 22 opponent onside kicks and both turned out to be huge plays in its season (Orlando rallied in the final minute to beat Spokane 83-82 in part because of a successful onside kick).
The Shock's two-score lead began to fade away late in the first half and was gone quickly in the second half. The Rattlers scored 37 unanswered points and defeated the Shock 65-57 Saturday night. Arizona will play in its third straight ArenaBowl. Spokane ended with a 15-5 record.
Yes, there were some mysterious calls -- aren't there always in an AFL game? -- by the officiating crew (still not sure how refs didn't agree with Andy Olson's challenge that Beau Bell recovered an Arizona fumble). But the Shock made too many costly mistakes (turnovers, dropped passes and penalties that erased defensive stops) to beat the top-ranked Rattlers.
No need to revisit the league's messy handling of a tiebreaker scenario that never came into play, but Saturday's game did underscore the importance of home field In a matchup of quality teams. Spokane's losses to Orlando, Tampa Bay and Utah -- two of those at home, all three teams finished 7-11 -- doomed its chances at home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.