Spokane has struggled during a 1-4 start and the Arena Football League schedule-maker isn’t making it easy to rebound.
The Shock tote a 0-3 road record across the country to face Orlando (4-1) tonight at the new Amway Center. The second-ranked Predators’ only loss came to No. 1 Arizona. Orlando led 21-0 early, but the Rattlers pulled out a 48-47 win with a touchdown and two-point conversion with 8 seconds left. Spokane entertains West Division rival Arizona (5-0) next week.
“Total sense of urgency,” Shock coach Rob Keefe said. “We have to make sure we’re ready, which means every game, every quarter and every play counts.”
Spokane’s first five opponents are a combined 13-12 entering this week’s games. Its next two are 9-1. The two after that, Pittsburgh and Dallas, are 3-3 and 3-2, respectively.
First things first. The Predators return more players from their 2010 roster than any team in the AFL. Quarterback Nick Hill leads the league in passing yards per game (314) and he’s one of three players with 100 yards rushing. T.T. Toliver, Bobby Sippio and Robert Quiroga form perhaps the most balanced receiving unit in the AFL. The three have between 35-45 receptions, 447-553 receiving yards and eight-12 touchdowns.
Still, defense is the Predators’ strong suit. They rank fifth in scoring defense (44.8) and have forced an AFL-leading 17 turnovers. Rayshaun Kizer leads the league with six of Orlando’s 13 interceptions.
“They have really good DBs and a strong line,” Keefe said. “The offense just manages games.”
Spokane’s secondary is still looking for its first interception.
“You can’t let it get to you mentally or you’ll start trying to play outside of the scheme, outside your responsibility,” defensive back Alex Teems said. “There haven’t been as many opportunities as we want, but we have to create them ourselves. No excuses. We have the talent, we just have to make it happen.”