A new season begins today.
The 15-1 record means little, other than being the best regular-season record in the Spokane Shock’s three-year franchise history. The top seed throughout the arenafootball2 playoffs doesn’t mean much either, according to coach Adam Shackleford, unless the Shock keep winning.
“(Home-field advantage) is only an advantage if we go out and play the game well,” Shackleford said.
The Shock’s hopeful postseason begins tonight when Spokane hosts the eighth-seeded Austin Wranglers (8-8), an expansion team in the af2 this season, at the Arena.
The teams met in Austin at the end of May, when the Shock won 62-42. Shackleford doesn’t put much stock in the fact that Spokane beat Austin previously. Neither do the players.
“Anything can happen in the playoffs, and we know that they want to come up here and beat us real bad,” said leading receiver Raul Vijil. “We’ve seen on film that they can play up to their competition, so we just need to put them away early and play the game we know we can play.”
Quarterback Andy Hall leads the Wranglers’ offense. In 13 regular-season games, Hall passed for 3,568 yards and 68 touchdowns. His leading target is John Roberson, who hauled in 131 passes for 1,734 yards and 35 touchdowns.
The Wranglers’ opponents scored an average of 50.1 points per game, which was 18th in the league. They were ranked eighth in yards allowed – giving up an average of 241.8 yards a game.
The Wranglers, whose average of 48.4 points per game ranks 14th in the af2, won five of their next six games after losing to Spokane but lost their last two games of the regular season. Austin ranks second in the league with an average of 292.1 yards of total offense a game.
“There are times you can see why they have won eight times and there are times you can see why they have lost eight games,” said Shackleford. “We can’t turn the ball over to this team. They are going to be prepared and hungry to beat the top-ranked team in the league. They know if they can get a win here that it can spark them throughout the rest of the playoffs.”
Shock fullback Katon Bethay will not play today after injuring his knee in last week’s game against Boise. Two-way lineman Harrison Nikolao will play fullback. … A win today will be Shackleford’s first playoff victory as a head coach in the af2.