Shock control playoff destiny
Four teams, two games remaining, one playoff spot, all sorts of possibilities.
Spokane can eliminate the guesswork and numerous what-if scenarios by winning its last two Arena Football League games, beginning with Saturday’s home finale against San Jose. The Shock (8-8) sit one game in front of San Jose, Utah and Tulsa in the race for the fourth and final National Conference playoff spot.
This is unfamiliar territory for a 6-year-old franchise that has hung 12 banners in the Arena for division, conference and league titles. At this point in past seasons, Spokane usually has clinched a division title, a playoff berth and knew it would be hosting playoff games.
This season has been different from the beginning. The Shock lost their first three games and were 4-7 at the end of May. They’ve fought back with four wins in five games to control their playoff destiny.
“Win the next two, we’re 100 percent in,” head coach Rob Keefe said. “Split and we have some issues. Lose both and we’re probably out. Just take care of our business.”
Spokane would eliminate San Jose with a win Saturday and clinch a playoff berth if Tulsa loses. If Spokane wins Saturday, loses the following week at Jacksonville and Utah and Tulsa win their last two games, it would create a three-way tie. Utah would win the tiebreaker, based on best record vs. common opponents.
Spokane could be a dangerous team if it makes the playoffs. The Shock are 3-1 against Arizona, Chicago and Dallas. Those three have clinched National Conference playoff berths.
Without catching a pass, Randy Hymes is already the most decorated Shock player in terms of NFL experience. The 6-foot-3, 215-pound receiver played from 2002-05 for Baltimore, collecting 43 receptions and four touchdowns.
“I’m healthy, fresh legs and I’m ready to come out and get this team to where they were at the end of last season,” said Hymes, who played with the Shock’s Alex Teems in Cleveland. “I bring a maturity level and the experience of the NFL combined with arena football experience.”
Hymes was set to join the Philadelphia Soul in February, but family matters brought him home to Louisiana. He took care of the family issues, completed his degree and then found time to squeeze in a few games with Houston in the Southern Indoor Football League.
When the Shock lost standout receivers Markee White and Greg Orton to the UFL and Raul Vijil (hamstring) was placed on injured reserve, they contacted Hymes. The 31-year-old sat out last week’s game, but during Tuesday’s practice he showed the form that helped him catch five touchdown passes against the Shock as a member of Bossier-Shreveport last season.
“I train people at home so I’m always working out,” Hymes said. “A lot of guys around here think I’m a young kid because I don’t look 31.”
Spokane’s Adron Tennell was named the AFL’s playmaker of the week, sharing the award with Tulsa’s JC Neal. Tennell had five TD catches in the win over Utah. … All four Shock offensive linemen and fullback Clay Harrell had moments when they were shaken up Saturday, but they continued to play. Palauni Ma Sun was in pain after the first down from scrimmage. “The pain tolerance of our offensive line is remarkable,” Keefe said. … Quarterback Erik Meyer exited Saturday’s game after cramping up for the second straight week. “It’s understanding of diet, good sleep and getting back to being an everyday quarterback,” Keefe said.