Spokane picks up first win of season in emphatic fashion
The Spokane Shock didn’t waste any time putting an end to the longest losing streak in franchise history.
They scored on their first play from scrimmage. They scored on their first 10 possessions. Their defense forced two turnovers and made six stops. The result was a 61-34 Arena Football League rout of Kansas City in front of 9,172 Friday at the Arena.
The Shock, who lost just 13 games in their first five seasons, dropped three straight to open the 2011 campaign, but they had no problem with the Command (0-3).
“That losing streak was taking its toll, but we know that’s not what we’re about,” said receiver Emery Sammons, who had two touchdowns receiving, one rushing, and also filled in at “Jack” linebacker.
Kyle Rowley became the franchise’s career leader in passing yards and passing touchdowns, surpassing Nick Davila in both categories. Rowley passed for 219 yards, giving him 6,874 in a Shock uniform. His seven touchdown passes pushed his career total to 155.
Rowley, intercepted seven times in the first three games, played turnover-free while completing 19 of 30 passes. His seven TDs went to four receivers – two to Sammons, Raul Vijil and Shaun Kauleinamoku and one to Greg Orton.
“You can’t key on anyone,” Rowley said. “When you have a lot of weapons and you use them, what are they going to do but guess. That’s always the way I’ve tried to play.”
Rowley said he’s already feeling more comfortable in offensive coordinator Andy Olson’s system. Olson was hired two weeks ago to replace Fred Biletnikoff Jr.
“It was the second week under the new terminology and it’s starting to click,” Rowley said. “Coach (Rob Keefe) pointed out that we haven’t been a very good third-quarter team to this point, so we wanted to come out and show them that we’re the same team in the second half as we were in the first half.”
Spokane led 38-12 at half and by as many as 35 in the second half.
“Physically we’re there, we have great athletes,” Keefe said. “Mentally we have to be tougher. We’re not going to be pushed around. We’re a team to be reckoned with, regardless of what our record is. It’s a long season, and our guys have really bought into that.”
Keefe was pleased with how the team responded, particularly after a tough 43-42 road loss to Iowa on March 25.
“Last week we were playing not to lose,” Keefe said. “I don’t mean this in a derogatory way, but you have to learn how to step on people’s throats. When somebody is down in football, you do kick them.”
The Shock defense forced two turnovers in the third quarter. Command quarterback J.J. Raterink’s pass was batted by linebacker Micah King and hauled in by lineman Jon Williams. Ruschard Dodd-Masters stripped the football away from Smith. The Shock capitalized on the turnovers with nine points to take a 54-19 lead early in the fourth quarter.
“I was just trying to get a pass rush and I got punched really bad,” said Williams, whose last pick came 10 years ago in college when he was a 225-pound defensive back/linebacker. “I saw the ball and I was like, ‘Yes, glory.’ I made sure I went up with two hands and caught the ball. Coach (Keefe) called a good game and our defensive backs covered so well. When you have excellent coverage like that, you can’t help but get a good pass rush.”
Kansas City’s only defensive stop came when Shock backup quarterback Bill Stull’s first pass was intercepted by ex-Spokane defensive back Sergio Gilliam with just over a minute to play.
Spokane has a bye next week before visiting Utah on April 15.
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