Shock smoke Lightning in opener
That looked familiar.
Raul Vijil finding the end zone, Nick Davila firing touchdown passes and the defense coming up with key stops. Spokane opened its 2009 arenafootball2 season with an impressive 59-42 victory over Stockton on Friday in front of another packed house of 10,548 at the Arena.
Spokane, winners of three division titles and one ArenaCup in its first three years of existence, is 8-0 against the Lightning and 21-4 in regular-season home games. Stockton dropped to 1-1.
“As usual, we had great support and I know everybody wanted one more point, but we just weren’t able to get it,” head coach Adam Shackleford said, referring to the promotion where fans receive a free chalupa when Spokane reaches 60 points. “I would say we were a C-plus or a B-minus. If we were any more than that, I’d be a little worried right now.”
Spokane made three defensive stops in the first half, the biggest coming in the closing seconds of the second quarter. The Shock scored on their first four possessions and led 28-21 with first-and-goal at the Stockton 8-yard line.
But Vijil was clobbered as he tried to catch a pass at the 5 and the ball popped into the arms of the Lightning linebacker Jay Hunt. Stockton was driving for a potential tying touchdown, but quarterback Andy Collins was flushed to the right sideline and tried an across-the-field pass that was picked off by Kevin McCullough, who returned it 40 yards for a touchdown to give the Shock a 35-21 halftime lead.
“I did get some big eyes and I fumbled it around a little bit, but I was able to come down with it,” McCullough said.
Vijil and af2 rookie Charles Dillon, a Washington State University product, each had two touchdowns in the first half. Vijil scored on an unusual play. He went in motion and was drilled at the line of scrimmage by a defender, but he was then left uncovered and made an easy catch over the middle and followed Dillon downfield for a 33-yard scoring play.
“I got smacked,” said Vijil, who scored four touchdowns receiving and one rushing. “One guy was supposed to take me, but I fought through it and got open.”
Spokane took command in the third quarter. The Shock scored on their first series on Davila’s perfectly thrown 35-yard touchdown pass to Vijil.
“That’s something you practice and you get that timing down,” Vijil said. “I was with Davila all last year. It’s kind of nice having a quarterback come back. We haven’t had that here.”
Spokane’s defense held and another Davila-to-Vijil connection hiked the lead to 49-21.
If it wasn’t over by then, the Shock defense sealed the deal with another goal-line stop. After Collins’ 45-yard run to the Shock 2, McCullough made two straight tackles and Collins tossed two incomplete passes, the latter batted away by Sergio Gilliam.
“It felt like playing outdoors again,” McCullough said. “Stockton likes to run the ball a lot on the goal line and (the defensive line) was tearing up their offensive line. There were huge holes to run through for Lee (Foliaki) and I, and we were able to make plays because of the defensive line.”
Stockton closed within 20 points twice, but the Shock answered, once with a touchdown and once with a Brian Jackson field goal. Stockton scored with 8 seconds left to account for the final margin.
Davila passed for 228 yards and six touchdowns. Vijil, Andy Olson and Dillon combined for 17 catches.
“It’s a real fast game, that’s the biggest part, getting used to the speed of the game,” Dillon said. “I remember I told (Davila) during our preseason game that I could barely hear him. He told me, ‘If you can barely hear me now, you really aren’t going to be able to hear me when it’s a real game.’ Our crowd was great.”
Spokane entertains Tri-Cities next Saturday.
Shock 59, Lightning 42
Stk–McBroom 28 pass from Collins (Naehu kick)
Spo – Vijil 2 pass from Davila (Jackson kick)
Spo – Dillon 6 pass from Davila (Jackson kick)
Stk – McBroom 5 pass from Collins (kick failed)
Spo – Dillon 33 pass from Davila (Jackson kick)
Spo – Vijil 33 pass from Davila (Jackson kick)
Stk – Taplin 16 pass from Collins (Taplin pass)
Spo – McCullough 40 interception return (Jackson pass)
Spo – Vijil 35 pass from Davila (Jackson kick)
Spo – Vijil 14 pass from Davila (Jackson kick)
Stk – McBroom 2 pass from Collins (McBroom pass)
Spo – Vijil 1 run (Jackson kick)
Stk – Taplin 18 pass from Collins (Naehu kick)
Spo – FG Jackson 23
Stk – Mopin 2 run (pass failed)
A – 10,548.
Rushing–Stockton, Collins 6-61, Mopin 1-2, Niusulu 1-2. Spokane, Mikolao 5-25, Olson 1-9, Vijil 1-1, Davila 1-0.
Passing–Stockton, Collins 29-47-1-311. Spokane–Davila 17-30-1-228 .
Receiving–Stockton, McBroom 11-120, Taplin 11-112, Sutton 6-57, Watley 1-22. Spokane–Vijil 7-107, Olson 6-40, Dillon 4-81.