Spokane and Tri-Cities don’t play many clean, pretty arenafootball2 games. Saturday was no exception.
The top-ranked Shock overcame 12 penalties and some shaky offensive stretches to pull away from the Fever 62-32 in front of 10,552 at the Arena. Spokane is 5-1 against Tri-Cities, but the victories rarely come easily.
Spokane improved to 2-0 and visits West Division foe Boise on Saturday for an early-season showdown. The 10th-ranked Burn improved to 2-0 with their second road win, knocking off Bossier-Shreveport 54-45. Tri-Cities dropped to 0-3.
“I don’t know what it is with Tri-Cities, but it’s always ugly when we play,” Shock head coach Adam Shackleford said. “They had some calls go against them. That fumble return for a touchdown was a shovel pass. That should have never counted, but we built off that momentum.
“I don’t think our guys came out flat. They gave great effort. It was just an ugly, rivalry game.”
The Shock led 27-19 at halftime, partly because of an apparent blown call by the officiating crew.
Spokane was on top 20-12 when Shock linebacker Kevin McCullough appeared to make a one-handed interception, but replays seemed to show the ball hit the ground. McCullough was then flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct, moving the ball to Spokane’s 12.
Fever quarterback Joe Ayoob tried a shovel pass that was knocked to the turf and most of the players and spectators assumed it was an incompletion. Shock defensive lineman Justin Warren fell on the ball and, with linebacker Lee Foliaki’s urging, he got up and raced 35 yards for a touchdown while many players on both teams thought the play was over.
Warren’s birthday was Friday. He got a belated gift Saturday.
“I was coming off my rush, I didn’t see anything,” Warren said. “I just saw the ball and I thought somebody was behind me so I dove on it. I heard Lee saying, ‘Get up, get up.’ He got a great block on the sideline and the next thing I knew I was in the end zone.”
“I didn’t hear a whistle,” Foliaki said. “(Warren) is my boy from Texas A&M and my roommate, I had to lead the way for him.”
When the play was ruled a touchdown, it sent Tri-Cities coach Richard Davis into orbit. He was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct and had to be restrained by a Fever assistant coach.
“I got nothing for you guys,” Davis said later, when approached by a reporter.
Spokane took control midway through the third quarter after the Fever closed within 34-26. Tri-Cities attempted an onside kick and nearly caught Foliaki napping.
“I’m going to hear about that from Coach,” Foliaki said. “I didn’t think they were going to onside kick and I took a step or two back before I realized the ball was dribbling in front of me.”
Foliaki pounced on the ball at the Fever 12-yard line. Two plays later, Nick Davila hit receiver Andy Olson for the third of their four touchdown connections.
Spokane’s defense came up with a stop as Ben McCombs sacked Ayoob at the Fever 5-yard line.
Following an incomplete pass and a penalty for delay of game, Tri-Cities elected to try a drop kick from its 3. The Shock took over at their 23 and scored four plays later on Harrison Nikolao’s 10-yard run, making it 48-26 with 13:49 remaining.
Olson added another touchdown with 4:33 left, but he hurt his left knee in the process. He wasn’t sure of the severity, but thought he might have sprained the medial collateral ligament. Defensive back Stanley Franks also was shaken up in the second half, but he said he could have returned to the game.
Davila was 13 of 21 for 189 yards and six touchdowns. Olson and Raul Vijil each had six receptions.
Ayoob was under pressure most of the evening. He finished 24 of 50 for 175 yards and four scores, three to Phil Goodman.
Tri-Cities has been held to 38, 15 and 32 points in its three games.
A brave girl jumps from the rocks on the west side of Tubbs Hill as her two friends watch. (Don Sausser/Facebook photo)
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