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Spokane Empire

Shock end AFL season on high note

In an up-and-down season, Spokane was able to count on several things – Adron Tennell’s receiving, Kenny Spencer’s kicking and the offense scoring a lot of points when the Shock kept their turnovers to a minimum.

Those were all on display as the Shock closed the season with a 63-53 victory over Tampa Bay on Saturday at the Arena that gave Spokane a 10-win season and kept the Storm out of the Arena Football League playoffs.

The Shock won their last two games to finish 10-8, missing the playoffs for the first time in the franchise’s seven arena seasons. Tampa Bay, which needed a win to make the playoffs because of the results from earlier games this weekend, ended up 8-10. New Orleans (8-10) claimed the last American Conference playoff berth.

“I think we had a good year,” Shock head coach Andy Olson said. “There were some things we let slip through and that’s because we’re young, but I don’t think those things are going to happen next year if we keep this group together.”

Tennell hauled in four touchdowns catches, giving him 40 for the season and breaking Huey Whittaker’s single-season franchise record of 37. The record-breaker came on a falling, one-handed grab, his second one-handed catch of the game. Tampa Bay challenged the call but officials said there was no evidence the ball hit the ground.

“Everybody else didn’t think it was a catch, but I knew it was a catch,” said Tennell, who set Shock single-season records for receptions, yards and touchdowns. “I got my hand underneath the ball.”

Spencer, who holds the AFL single-season record with 138 made PATs, went 9 of 9, but that wasn’t his biggest contribution. He had three kickoffs ricochet off the goal posts, one that was recovered by Patrick Stoudamire for a touchdown as Spokane led 35-30 at halftime.

“Finally, it took 18 games to get one,” Spencer said. “The bar balls just haven’t been lucky for us. That play just gave momentum to the team.”

Spokane, which hasn’t had a turnover-free game this season, came close, but fullback Andrew Nierman fumbled near the Tampa Bay goal line and the Storm recovered late in the third quarter. That was Spokane’s only turnover and the Shock put up 63 points, exceeding their per-game average of 58.8.

Quarterback Kyle Rowley completed 24 of 33 passes for 245 yards and six touchdowns. Tennell finished with 10 catches for 140 yards and Rod Harper added eight receptions for 53 yards. Steven Black had two TD catches in the fourth quarter.

Spokane scored on every possession with the exception of Nierman’s fumble and its last series in the closing seconds.

“That was a great offensive performance,” Olson said.

Defensive linemen Jeremy Geathers and James Ruffin stripped the football loose from Tampa Bay quarterback Stephen Wasil on back-to-back possessions in the third quarter. Spokane scored after both turnovers to expand its lead to 49-30.

Wasil passed for 391 yards and four touchdowns. Ex-Shock receiver Joe Hills had eight receptions for 215 yards and three touchdowns.

Terrance Sanders, who entered the game as the AFL leader in yards per return, raced 56 yards for a touchdown midway through the first quarter, but the play was nullified by a penalty. It would have been his fifth TD return of the season.

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