May 1, 2011 in Sports

Blanchette: Shock really know how to rattle the Rattlers

By Correspondent
 
Dan Pelle photoBuy this photo

Spokane Shock’s Antwan Marsh gets a grip on Arizona Rattlers’ Rod Windsor and stops him for a short gain Saturday at the Arena.
(Full-size photo)

Shock, it’s good to have you back.

Love the Honey Bucket.

Whether it’s a have-to-have-it victory or new breakthroughs in feng shui, the Spokane Shock forever seem to have the right stuff, as was the case Saturday night when they again tormented their alumni team, the Arizona Rattlers, by surviving in a 70-69 breath-holder.

That would be the formerly unbeaten Arizona Rattlers, the top-ranked team in all of the Arena Football League, but winless in all four tries against Spokane in the two years since they began keeping company.

Each loss has caused the Rattlers various pangs of frustration, but they must have left this one grinding their molars into a fine dust.

The visitors, down two touchdowns with barely two minutes to play, somehow managed to manufacture two different opportunities to win in the last 11.9 seconds – only to see a 2-point conversion pass deflected away and a long field-goal attempt smothered.

“Not nervous,” insisted Shock defensive back Terrance Sanders, the man with the hand on the conversion pass. “Just an opportunity to rise to the challenge. That’s what champions are made of.”

Well, one thing at a time. ArenaBowl champions last year, the Shock aren’t yet back to .500 this season.

Indeed, a month ago, they were very un-Shock. Instead, they were Team Titanic – 0-3 and throwing deckhands over the bow.

But now they appear to be getting some of that old swash back in their buckle.

And not just on the field. Whatever strategies coach Rob Keefe had concocted to keep the Rattlers reeling, the masterstroke of the night began with the installation of a port-a-potty in the Arizona bench area.

Seems that on one of their visits to Spokane last year, an unidentified member of the Rattlers relieved himself on the floor of the Spokane Arena, just underneath the stands.

Eww is right.

Building management asked the Shock for some protection against players who weren’t yet Arena-broken, so the Honey Bucket was trucked in – though, alas, they didn’t have time to get it painted up in Shock blue-and-orange.

But leave it to the club to leverage every angle: They turned it into a trade-out. The temp-toilet folks got some prime air time over the P.A. and on the video board.

Good thing the dance team already has a sponsor.

Whether it was the furniture in their midst or not, the Rattlers started off in the dumper – fumbling the snap on the second play of the game. Turnovers are the real currency in the indoor game, and when Arizona fumbled again late in the third quarter, the Shock suddenly had that two-touchdown lead – though, of course, there’s no such thing as free and clear in the AFL, and two flawless onside kicks in the last minute gave Arizona its opening.

“I’m glad the way it ended,” Keefe insisted, “because to be honest that was about four different endings we’re going to learn from.”

But maybe the Shock have already learned the critical lessons from their halting first month.

“Every win is big right now because we kind of dug a hole,” admitted quarterback Kyle Rowley. “But you can’t deny we’re a team to be reckoned with, and that’s the way we felt from the beginning.

“The fact is we didn’t lose faith – not that this is some big accomplishment, but we’re winning games and didn’t totally go in the gutter.”

Not just winning games, but winning them against playoff teams like Orlando and Arizona. The schedule looks to ease up now for a bit.

“I think we’re going to be 10-4 before people realize it,” said Keefe, “and then all of these negative critics are going to go away.”

Well, they’ve certainly made one convert.

Sanders, strong on kick returns all night and much-needed relief in the secondary when injuries hit, was a member of the Rattlers last year, and remembers the frustration in the locker room after their encounters with Spokane.

“I was on the other side,” he said, “so it felt good to be on the winning side. I was with those guys last year and we could never beat Spokane.”

How did he wind up on this side?

“I saw these guys win that championship last year,” Sanders said. “I had the opportunity to come here last year, but I went with Arizona instead. I didn’t want to miss out this year, and I’m here. I just wanted to make sure this year that the losing streak continued.”

And it did, so now this much is certain: the Shock have the Rattlers’ number.

Whether it’s No. 1 or No. 2.


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