No. 1 Shock out to avoid being shocked
Simply put, the Spokane Shock are expected to win tonight’s home game against Tri-Cities. If there were odds on arenafootball2 games, they would be heavily favored.
“I think our guys have stayed focused and they understand that on paper it’s a game we should win,” Shock head coach Adam Shackleford said. “On the field, it’s a game we have to win. (Tri-Cities) coach Pat O’Hara will have those guys prepared. We have to worry about limiting our mistakes and playing like we did last week.”
Playing like they did against the Fever would probably work, too. Top-ranked Spokane (10-0), which set a franchise record for points in an 88-27 win over Stockton eight days ago, won two previous meetings against Tri-Cities (1-10) by a combined 71 points.
Spokane has made a couple of roster adjustments. Receiver Charles Dillon (ankle) is out and defensive lineman Jeff Van Orsow (finger) is likely done for the season. Linebacker Lee Foliaki, at home in Texas because of a family emergency, won’t return to the team this season, Shackleford said.
The Shock added former Washington Husky Johnie Kirton (DL/FB) and defensive back Virgil Gray to the roster. Gray won’t play tonight. Kirton will step in for Van Orsow at defensive end.
Damon Jenkins, who had been on injured-reserve, will serve as the fourth defensive back. Starting DB Sergio Gilliam will be the fourth receiver, behind Andy Olson, Raul Vijil and Markee White, who will start in place of Dillon.
“I think we’re getting better offensively – 88 points says so and we scored a lot of points against Tri-Cities the week before,” Olson said. “Obviously, we want to put up the same numbers against the better teams, but we’ve improved and no turnovers (against Stockton) is the big thing.”
Spokane’s defense has been even more impressive, forcing nine turnovers against Stockton and holding three consecutive opponents to less than 30 points.
“I’d much rather play with them than against them,” Olson said.
Tri-Cities’ offense has struggled all season. Four quarterbacks have seen significant time, but the results haven’t been pretty. The Fever scored a season-high 44 points against Central Valley and 43 in their lone win against Stockton in early May. They are last in af2 in scoring (31.4 ppg) and second to last with 23 interceptions.
Spokane practiced in the Arena all week for the first time this season. “For special teams, it’s a huge help,” Shackleford said. “We have a unique deal in af2 where we have to catch balls off the net on kickoffs and we haven’t been able to practice that outside of games, so it’s good to be able to do that. And we’re able to throw deep passes. Our (practice) facility is very nice, but the (low) ceiling limits that.” … Spokane has won six straight after losing to Tri-Cities in 2007. … Shock quarterback Nick Davila’s 127.3 passer rating is second in af2 to Oklahoma City’s Robert Kent (127.7). Those teams square off Friday. Defensive back Stanley Franks is second in tackles with 73. … The af2 playoffs will again include 16 teams, the league announced. Some speculated that the format might be changed to 12 teams to save costs. Spokane, Tulsa and Boise have clinched playoff berths.