Shock clutch down stretch
Make plays late to beat Boise 8th straight time
BOISE – Spokane’s offense converted on fourth down late in the game. Boise’s offense didn’t.
Those two plays ultimately spurred the top-ranked Shock past the No. 6 Burn 56-51 in the arenafootball2 regular-season finale for both teams in front of 4,654 Saturday at Qwest Arena.
Spokane capped its second straight 15-1 regular-season campaign. The Shock return home to face No. 8-seeded Stockton (6-10) in the opening round of the playoffs at 7 p.m. Saturday. Boise (12-4), seeded fourth in the National Conference, entertains No. 5 Arkansas (11-5). Spokane and Boise will meet in the second round if both teams win their openers.
The Shock, 8-0 all time against Boise, won all three meetings this season, but the last two were the closest in the three-year rivalry. Spokane beat the Burn 64-62 in early May.
Spokane led by 20 at the end of the first quarter, but couldn’t put away the Burn, who rallied behind backup quarterback Mark Thorson. He took over when starter Taylor Tharp left in the third quarter with an injury to his right (throwing) shoulder.
Thorson tossed three touchdown passes, the last an 8-yard strike to Jomo Wilson to put Boise in front for the first time, 51-50 with 10:03 left. Spokane answered with a five-play, 43-yard drive. Quarterback Nick Davila was 5 of 5 on the drive and lobbed a strike to Andy Olson on fourth-and-goal at the 2 to give Spokane a 56-51 lead with 5:30 remaining.
Boise marched to Spokane’s 3, but fullback Damian Walker was stopped by Kevin McCullough for no gain and Thorson overthrew Nichiren Flowers in the end zone, setting up fourth down. McCullough came up with his 10th interception of the season with 53 seconds left.
“We have resilient guys,” Shock head coach Adam Shackleford said.
“We were down a little bit in the fourth quarter. Our guys kind of smiled and said, ‘All right, we finally found somebody that will go toe-to-toe with us.’ ”
Davila passed for 256 yards and six touchdowns. Olson had 11 catches for 136 yards and two TDs. Markee White had three TD receptions in the first half and finished with 10 catches for 87 yards. Charles Dillon had one rushing TD and one receiving TD.
“We made a lot of mistakes, a couple turnovers which we can’t do,” Olson said. “Whenever we turn over the ball, that’s when we’re in a close game.”
Spokane led 27-7 after one quarter, but the Burn closed within 10 on Tharp’s 2-yard run. Brian Jackson made a 36-yard field goal on the last play of the first half, giving Spokane a 36-23 lead.
Boise’s Wilson opened the third quarter with his second kick return for a touchdown.
Spokane’s Virgil Gray returned the favor on the ensuing kickoff, but Gray later fumbled on a kick return and the Burn capitalized two plays later with the go-ahead score.