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Spokane Empire

Shock overcome QB injuries to vanquish Vigilantes

The Spokane Shock have no idea who will be the starting quarterback for Friday’s home game against Tampa Bay, but they’ll worry about that over the next few days.

For now, they’re content to savor another victory over a division leader, a crisp performance that generated a 71-49 Arena Football League win over Dallas in front of 9,368 Saturday at the Arena. Spokane, despite losing quarterbacks Bill Stull and Kyle Rowley to injuries, improved to 4-5 while Central Division-leading Dallas dropped to 6-3.

Stull, starting his first game, left with a knee injury late in the first quarter.

“My first game at Pitt as a true junior I tore ligaments in my thumb and was out the whole season,” said Stull, who directed two scoring drives before departing. “But it’s not going to be that bad. I told coach (Rob Keefe), ‘I’m playing next week.’”

Rowley, who was benched by Keefe after starting Spokane’s previous 27 games, entered in the second quarter and tossed five touchdown passes as the Shock scored a season-high 71 points. However, Rowley suffered an injury to his right (throwing) shoulder early in the fourth quarter. He remained in the game for one play, hitting Greg Orton for a 6-yard touchdown.

“I took a direct hit on the turf with a big guy on top of me,” Rowley said. “I was trying to throw but I couldn’t get it done.”

Receiver Chas Gessner, a teammate of Rowley’s at Brown who joined the Shock 10 days ago, filled in at quarterback for the last few possessions. On one play, he wasn’t looking when the ball was snapped and he fell on the ball in the end zone for a safety. Gessner rebounded to toss a 36-yard pass to Emery Sammons on the next series.

“Never, maybe in the backyard,” Gessner said of his prior experience at quarterback. “At first the plan was to take snaps under center so (Keefe) wanted somebody to do that. He asked if I could and I said, ‘Yes.’ I didn’t even know the play calls so we were all coming over to (offensive coordinator Andy Olson) to get the play so I didn’t have to repeat it in the huddle.”

Sammons also took several snaps at quarterback and ran with the ball as Spokane worked time off the clock. He played the position once in peewee football.

Spokane, which defeated West Division leader Arizona two weeks ago, made up some ground on two teams its chasing for a wildcard playoff berth. Utah (4-4) lost to Milwaukee and San Jose (5-4) lost to Pittsburgh. Chicago (6-3) defeated Arizona (7-2) 50-49.

Spokane dominated the second quarter, outscoring Dallas 28-6 to take a 41-26 halftime lead. The Shock led by as many as 32 in the second half.

Stull hurt his knee when he was hit while planting to release a pass. Seconds later, he scored on a nifty scramble, but he had to be helped off the field.

Dallas quarterback Dan Raudabaugh, whose fumble on the first play from scrimmage nearly handed Spokane a touchdown, lost control of the ball in his throwing motion again and Lance Witherspoon recovered in the end zone for a touchdown, giving Spokane its first lead at 27-20.

“He was trying to read the coverage and getting confused and patting the ball and it was slipping out of his hands,” Keefe said. “The defensive line was hungry and they got after him.”

Spokane led 34-26 when Dallas took possession at the Shock 14 with 1 minute left. Three running plays left Spokane without a timeout but the Vigilantes facing fourth-and-2. Terrance Taylor sacked Raudabaugh and Spokane capitalized with Rowley’s second TD connection with Raul Vijil with 5.4 seconds left.