Defense suits Shock’s Terrance Sanders

Terrance Sanders is dual threat for Spokane. (Jesse Tinsley)

Defense often goes unappreciated in Arena League, but not on Saturday at the Arena.

The Spokane Shock had lost their momentum against the Portland Thunder, but defensive back Terrance Sanders seized it back with a crucial interception in the fourth quarter of a 55-27 win.

“It feels good to be recognized for defense in this offensive league,” said Sanders who added another pick to seal the game. He also had a team-high six tackles.

Sanders has earned plenty of recognition as he enters his fourth year with the Shock, including first-team All-Arena honors as a kick returner last year and as a defensive back the year before.

“The season hasn’t been going as great on kickoff returns, but it’s going better at defensive back,” said Sanders, who so far has 359 yards and a score on 18 returns.

“We’re just finding different ways to win,” said Sanders as he and the Shock (3-1) prepare for Saturday’s home game against unbeaten Cleveland (4-0).

Sanders may selling himself a bit short on special teams, as the Shock rank fourth in the league in kickoff returns with an 18.6-yard average, with Sanders accounting for all but three of the returns.

Defensively, Sanders is tied for 17th in the league in total tackles with 20, and his three picks leave him tied for eighth.

Shock coach Andy Olson took notice, especially after Sanders’ first pick against Portland.

“That changed the momentum big-time, got us ahead by two scores and broke their confidence,” said Olson, who watched the Shock reel off five straight scores to pull away.

In the process, the Shock held the Thunder to just 27 points, the fewest Spokane has given up since a 57-26 win over Milwaukee early in the 2012 season.

Tougher challenge ahead

For the most part, Olson liked what he saw on film in the win over Portland. The second quarter was another matter, as an early 20-0 lead evaporated. In fact, the Shock trailed 21-20 before pulling away.

“The defense played extremely well, holding them to under 30 points,” noted Olson, adding that three failed offensive drives is “probably a couple too many.”

Of the stagnant second quarter, Olson added that “we have to wake up sooner than that.”

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