The Spokane Shock’s spotless record against Arizona came to an end Saturday night at Phoenix.
The Rattlers, 0-4 all time in the series, thumped the visiting Shock 68-46 at U.S. Airways Center. Second-ranked Arizona extended its winning streak to seven games while ending Spokane’s at three.
Arizona (14-2) will probably climb to No. 1 in next week’s Arena Football League coaches poll. Top-ranked Jacksonville lost to San Jose on Friday. Spokane’s 70-69 win over Arizona in late April knocked the Rattlers out of the top spot.
The Shock (7-8) dropped into a tie with Utah – which visits Spokane at Albi Stadium on Saturday for the AFL’s first outdoor game – for the fourth and final playoff spot in the National Conference. Arizona can secure hosting rights throughout the playoffs with road wins against Pittsburgh and Dallas.
Both teams scored on their five first-half possessions, but Arizona took a 34-30 lead as the Shock settled for Taylor Rowan’s 24-yard field goal on the final play. Spokane got the ball to start the second half, but the tone was set when defensive back Marquis Floyd hit Shock receiver Chas Gessner just as Erik Meyer’s pass arrived, deflecting the ball to linebacker Jason Geathers.
Nick Davila tossed a 13-yard touchdown pass to Rod Windsor and Arizona led 41-30.
“Arizona is the best defensive team statistically and you can’t turn the ball over,” Shock head coach Rob Keefe said in a postgame radio interview. “We had to play mistake-free football and we did in the first half, but it’s a 60-minute game.”
Spokane committed four turnovers and was stopped on downs once in the second half. Arizona scored on its first 10 possessions, nine ending on touchdown passes by Davila, who completed 17 passes in a row at one point. Davila, 37-3 as Spokane’s quarterback in 2008-09, was 0-4 against Spokane as a Rattler before breaking through.
“We made some adjustments (in the second half) and we got physical with them,” Arizona coach Kevin Guy said. “Offensively, we were clicking pretty good.”
Meyer fired his fourth touchdown pass to pull Spokane within 41-38, but Davila answered with a TD pass to Geathers. Meyer hobbled off the field with leg cramps two plays later and didn’t return.
Kyle Rowley’s first pass was picked off by ex-Shock defensive back Virgil Gray. The Rattlers capitalized with a touchdown and their defense made another stop. Davila’s 23-yard touchdown pass to Kerry Reed gave Arizona a comfortable 61-34 lead.
“It was 116 degrees here and we tried to hydrate and prepare the guys as much as possible,” Keefe said. “Unfortunately, Erik cramped up and it wasn’t just a leg cramp, it was a full-body cramp.”
Rowley was intercepted three times. Gessner and Adron Tennell both surpassed 100 yards receiving.