How much has changed since Spokane’s second bye of the Arena Football League season roughly a month ago?
Well, Spokane has won three straight games to become a viable playoff contender. The Shock acquired quarterback Erik Meyer and Raymond McNeil, signed Eric Hedin and this week added Chris Pino. All four are expected to start against Arizona Saturday night.
They lost Ben Ossai, Greg Orton and Markee White to the UFL and dealt Khreem Smith and Antonio Narcisse to Utah. After a slow start to his second AFL season, linebacker Antwan Marsh has produced three rushing touchdowns, 16 tackles and an interception and fumble recovery in the last three games.
“The second bye gave us a chance to get a little healthier and our bodies situated,” Marsh said. “Even from training camp, I’ve been battling injures. The second bye got me back to 100 percent.”
One thing the Shock hope doesn’t change – their mastery over the Rattlers. Spokane (7-7) has won all four series meetings – all with Kyle Rowley at quarterback – entering tonight’s showdown at US Airways Center in Phoenix.
Tenth-ranked Spokane needs a win to improve its playoff chances. The Rattlers (13-2), riding a six-game winning streak following a 70-69 loss to the Shock in late April, are pursuing home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.
“Their coach (Kevin Guy) really wants to stick it to me – a lot of players that played for the Shock are on this year’s (Arizona) team so there are lots of implications,” Shock coach Rob Keefe said.
For one of Spokane’s biggest games, Keefe installed Meyer at starting quarterback after what he termed a highly competitive week of practice. Rowley, who had 25 touchdown passes in Spokane’s four wins over the Rattlers, will be the backup.
Meyer, returning from a concussion, tossed eight of his 12 touchdown passes to Orton and White. Meyer will work with receivers Emery Sammons, Shaun Kauleinamoku, Adron Tennell and Chas Gessner against a Rattlers’ defense that is second in turnovers forced (44) and fourth in points allowed per game (47.1)
“It’s different, but after a few days of practice you get on the same page,” Meyer said.
Pino will start on offensive line in place of Palauni Ma Sun, who didn’t make the trip. … Ex-Shock linebacker Kevin McCullough (knee) is on injured reserve. Arizona’s Jack linebacker has five interceptions and a fumble recovery. Receiver Trandon Harvey, a former WSU Cougar who has 29 touchdown receptions and two kick returns for TDs, is also on IR. … Arizona’s Nick Davila, the Shock’s quarterback in 2008-09, is second in touchdown passes (92) and efficiency rating (126.6).