ORLANDO, Fla. – The Spokane Shock started strong and finished stronger to escape with a 53-52 Arena Football League victory over the Orlando Predators on Saturday at Amway Arena.
The second-ranked Shock (7-2) won their fifth straight by rallying out of a 52-40 deficit in the fourth quarter. The victory keeps Spokane one game in front of Arizona, which improved to 6-3 with a 56-55 win over Oklahoma City, in the West Division.
Spokane blew an early 13-0 lead and found itself behind 52-40 when 39-year-old Kenny McEntyre caught an onside kick in stride and ran 10 yards for a touchdown.
The Shock closed the gap to 52-46 on Kyle Rowley’s 1-yard TD pass to Raul Vijil. The point-after attempt went awry when long-snapper Ben McCombs, stepping in for Kevin McCullough, who was traded to Oklahoma City last week, launched a high snap.
Orlando’s next series went nowhere as quarterback Nick Hill tossed four straight incomplete passes. Spokane took over at the Predators’ 9 and appeared to score the go-ahead touchdown on a Huey Whittaker touchdown catch, but Vijil was flagged for offensive pass interference. On the ensuing play, Rowley was intercepted by Rayshawn Kizer, who also picked off a Rowley pass late in the second quarter.
The Predators (4-5), who had won four of their last five games, worked the ball downfield and the clock under 1 minute. With Orlando facing third-and-6, Shock newcomer Antwan Marsh, who replaced McCullough at “Jack” linebacker, went high for an interception at the 3-yard line and returned the ball to the 18.
“I saw the quarterback looking to the back side, I just read his eyes and made a play on the ball,” Marsh said in a post-game interview on the Shock radio broadcast.
Spokane forced Orlando to use its timeouts while marching to the Predators’ 6. On third down, Rowley bought time by stepping up in the pocket and he found Vijil in the right side of the end zone for a touchdown to tie it at 52. McCombs’ snap was perfect and kicker Taylor Rowan, a Florida resident who had 52 friends and family members in attendance, made the PAT to put Spokane on top 53-52 with 14.5 seconds remaining.
Hill completed one pass and Orlando had just enough time for a 50-yard field-goal attempt. Jerry Turner blocked the kick, preserving Spokane’s unbeaten road record (4-0).
“I didn’t play a good game, but at least I finished it and we finished it and that’s kind of what it’s about,” said Rowley, who was intercepted three times after throwing just five picks in the first eight games. “Our defense was huge. They played tremendous in the second half.”
Rowley passed for 305 yards and six touchdowns, four to Vijil and two to Whittaker, another Florida resident who enjoyed a happy return to his home state. Whittaker, who also had a rushing touchdown, and Vijil each had 11 receptions.
Spokane entertains Southwest Division-leading Tulsa (6-4) on Friday.