Shock host No. 1 Sharks

It essentially qualifies as a big game when the participants involved don’t bother trying to dismiss it as just another game.

“It’s always a big game, the next game,” Spokane Shock head coach Rob Keefe began. “However, with that said, it’s going to give us a good indication where we are. If we dominate, it let’s us know we’re very good, but you have to keep that up. If we lose a big one, maybe we have to make some changes here or there.

“If we lose a close one, it’s two good teams going at each other. Same thing if we win a close one.”

The last two scenarios seem to be the most likely when No. 1 Jacksonville (6-1) and No. 3 Spokane (5-2) collide tonight at the Arena. The Arena Football League season reaches the midpoint with its biggest game to date.

“Some teams out there are all offense or defense. I think we’re pretty balanced and I think Spokane is pretty balanced,” said Sharks offensive coordinator Chris Siegfried, who coached Spokane to the 2006 arenafootball2 championship. “I’ve watched a lot of film on (Spokane’s) defense and they have a fast defense, a lot of speed in the secondary. And I’ve peeked a little at their offense because of (quarterback) Kyle (Rowley) and (receiver) Raul (Vijil). I’ve always followed those guys.”

That’s because he used to coach them – Vijil in Spokane and Rowley in Spokane and Arkansas. Siegfried’s return is one of numerous storylines in this showdown.

The Sharks lead the AFL in scoring defense (46.9 points) and pass defense (262 yards). They’re third in sacks (11) and opponents’ conversions on third down (44.2 percent) and fourth on fourth down (43.8 percent). Spokane ranks first in scoring offense (69.1), second in pass offense (332.3) and total defense (271.4) and seventh in scoring defense (56.7).

“Last week’s win (over Utah) was good for us to get because we haven’t been playing so hot at home,” Vijil said. “Hopefully we can keep that momentum and bring down a team like Jacksonville. When you have a team mixed with veterans and young guys like we have, you have that ability to get better, and I think that’s what we’re doing.”

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