March 11, 2011 in Sports

AFL top-ranked Spokane Shock open against No. 2 San Jose

By The Spokesman-Review

Spokane head coach Rob Keefe believes his team plays in the toughest division in the Arena Football League. The AFL preseason poll seems to agree with Keefe.

The Shock will begin to find out where they stand in the National Conference West Division when they open the 2011 season against San Jose, a three-time AFL champion returning to the field for the first time since 2008. Kickoff at HP Pavilion in San Jose is at 8 tonight.

Spokane, which won the 2010 ArenaBowl in its first AFL season, is No. 1 in the preseason poll. San Jose is No. 2 and West rival Arizona is No. 6.

“I would put San Jose in the top seven, but I’m not going to crown anybody, just like I’m not going to crown ourselves,” Keefe said. “On paper, we have three of the top seven in our division and I think we’re going to do some damage in the playoffs.”

Keefe has been viewing SaberCats’ game tape from several years ago, trying to learn more about quarterback Mark Grieb and head coach Darren Arbet’s system. Grieb, who has three ArenaBowl titles on his resume, ranks second in AFL history with a 123.2 passer rating, just behind Chris Greisen.

“They have good veteran experience,” Keefe said. “Grieb has a quick trigger and quick release. He’s like a coach on the field.”

Keefe hopes the Shock “look more connected” than they did early on last season, when they went 2-2 in the first month.

“I think we’re further along,” Keefe said. “I feel like we have a veteran team that will get better. We’ve put more stuff in and we’ll see how much they can absorb.”

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