Spokane and Chicago, two teams heading in opposite directions, collide today, but both know things can change in a hurry in the Arena Football League.
The Shock woke up on April 7 with a 1-3 record after a heartbreaking road loss to Arizona. Spokane (6-4) has been on a roll since, winning five of six, including three straight entering a 1 p.m. PDT showdown with Chicago (6-4) at Allstate Arena.
Chicago opened the season with four straight wins and occupied the top spot in the coaches’ poll. The Rush dropped three of their last four and trail San Antonio (8-3) in the Central Division.
“A couple of weeks ago we were extinct, dinosaurs, and now everyone is back on the bandwagon,” Shock defensive back Terrance Sanders said. “It’s amazing what a couple of wins can do.”
Sanders sees progress on and off the field.
“I was a little worried earlier because chemistry is the last thing to come around,” he said. “I knew we had talent, but the chemistry wasn’t there. Now that the chemistry is coming along, we’re a tough bunch.”
Spokane still hasn’t played a turnover-free game, but it has limited its miscues after a rough start to the season. Veteran quarterback Kyle Rowley is 5-2 since becoming the starter. Receivers Adron Tennell and Brandon Thompkins have combined for 41 touchdowns. The team recently added receiver Rod Harper, who played with Rowley at arenafootball2 Arkansas in 2009 before joining the New Orleans Saints.
Chicago’s Russ Michna has 53 touchdown passes and just eight interceptions. His 124.7 passer rating ranks third behind Iowa’s J.J. Raterink and Arizona’s Nick Davila. Receivers Jared Perry and Reggie Gray have identical stats (71 receptions, 1,034 yards). Gray has 26 TD catches, Perry 15.
“They’re very high-powered,” Spokane coach Andy Olson said. “Michna is getting the ball out so quick, and Gray is one of the best receivers around, and Perry is coming into his own. We’re going to have to score points to beat them.”
The game carries playoff implications. The West and Central division champions automatically advance to the playoffs. That leaves two wild-card berths up for grabs.
“This is a playoff, that’s how I’m treating it,” Olson said.