The Spokane Shock and Arizona Rattlers only have a three-game history, but they’ve been packed with close outcomes, memorable finishes, controversial calls and a postgame rant by the Arizona coach directed at the Shock’s Rob Keefe following a loss last year.
Adding to the budding rivalry is the fact that several of Arizona’s key players formerly wore Shock uniforms.
The teams collide tonight at the Arena with Spokane (2-4) trying to get back into the West Division race and No. 1 Arizona (6-0) trying to figure out how to beat the Shock. Spokane won all three games last season, including a playoff victory en route to an ArenaBowl title, by a combined 16 points.
“Even the guys who weren’t here last year know they’ve inherited a rivalry,” said Keefe, the Shock’s head coach. “They know this is a huge game, they know it’s going to be a playoff-type atmosphere and that it could have implications later on.”
The Rattlers boast wins over Orlando (4-2) and Jacksonville (5-1). They rank second in scoring defense, pass efficiency and turnover margin, and third in scoring offense. They’ve committed the second-fewest penalties in the league.
“We’ve been really good about making teams drive the field,” said Arizona linebacker Kevin McCullough, who played 2½ seasons for the Shock. “Utah is the only team that had quick drives on us. Everybody trusts each other to do their job. We have guys up front and in the secondary capable of making plays.”
Ex-Shock quarterback Nick Davila has 36 touchdown passes and six interceptions. He’s second in pass efficiency (121.3) and third in completion percentage (69.2).
Spokane took a big step toward righting its season with a 70-58 road win over No. 2 Orlando last week. The Shock have scored 70, 62 and 61 points in their last three games.
The defense registered four sacks, two turnovers and four stops against the Predators. Micah King had two sacks and Beau Bell had a sack and forced two fumbles in just his second game.
“We’re really not worried about the long-term picture, we’re worried about winning this game,” Bell said. “We don’t look at how big the tree is, we just keep chopping wood.”
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