It’s all about protection. Protect your quarterback, protect your division-leading record.
If the Spokane Shock learned anything when they met the Tri-Cities Fever in mid-June, it was to take no game for granted.
The Shock host the Fever tonight in arenafootball2 action at the Arena, the Shock’s final home game of the regular season. After an ugly first meeting with the expansion Fever in Kennewick – in which the Shock fell 39-34 – Spokane (9-4) will look to take advantage of a couple of opportunities, the most important being a chance to clinch the Western Division title.
“The lessons we learned from that game made us a better football team,” Shock coach Adam Shackleford said. “We never say a loss is a good thing, but I think that got us refocused and helped us win the last couple games.”
A little revenge would be nice, too.
“We’re just looking forward to getting back on the field after the bye,” said Shock receiver Raul Vijil, a Pasco native who was sidelined because of an ankle injury in the previous meeting with the Fever.
“It’s the last home game, and it’s a big game, and we definitely want to host a playoff game and this could decide that, so this is a big week for us. We definitely don’t want to lose twice to Tri-Cities. We just want to get the win and I’m excited to play.”
In order for the Shock to wrap up the division and secure home-field advantage in their playoff opener, two things need to happen: The Shock need to beat the Fever (8-4) by more than five points and Central Valley (8-4) needs to lose at Lubbock (7-6).
In the June 16 meeting between the Fever and Spokane, Shock quarterback Andrico Hines had his worst game of the season, completing 8 of 33 passes. Coupled with missed blocks on the offensive line and several dropped passes by Shock receivers, it was an all-around off night.
The Shock made a couple of moves over the last two weeks, including switching defensive lineman Katon Bethay to fullback and releasing Ben Brown, a move that Shackleford feels will give Hines more protection.
“The big thing is we have to protect our quarterback,” said Shackleford. “We’ve obviously struggled when we haven’t done that.”
The Shock will hold off until next week to sign a defensive lineman to fill Bethay’s spot. The addition of offensive lineman Ryan Belcher, who played two weeks ago against Central Valley, has added strength to the line, Shackleford said.
Fever quarterback Brian Baker is third in the league in passing yards per game (280.4) and has thrown a league-high 86 touchdown passes.
His top receiver, J.R. Thomas, is fourth in the league with an average of 8.38 receptions a game and fourth behind Shock receiver Antwone Savage with 33 TDs scored.
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