It’s been nearly a month since the Spokane Shock played a home game.
During that stretch, Spokane put together some of its best football of the Arena Football League season, some of its worst in an 84-63 loss to Utah last week and has a new look for the roster.
Spokane (3-4) returns home to face New Orleans at 8 tonight at the Arena. Compared with last week’s starting lineup, Spokane will have at least three new starters on each side of the ball.
Chris Pino, who has had a couple of stints with the team and arrived in town Wednesday night, and former Washington State Cougar Andrew Roxas will start on the offensive line. Chris Tucker, expected to start at nose guard, was one of the last cuts in training camp. Former USC Trojan and San Diego Charger Kevin Ellison will start at linebacker.
Linebacker Levi Madarieta, a starter on the 2006 arenafootball2 championship squad who signed earlier this week, will be on the practice squad.
“We’re going to have our hands full,” coach Andy Olson said. “We’re focusing on getting our big guys healthy and bringing in a couple of fresh bodies. We’re going to win or lose the game up front.”
New Orleans, which blew a 23-point second-half lead in last week’s loss to Jacksonville, is a statistical oddity, leading the league in the all-important turnover margin (plus 11) but sporting a losing record (3-4). Spokane is minus-5 in turnover margin.
Quarterback Kurt Rocco has 39 touchdown passes and just four interceptions. L.J. Castile leads the team with 43 catches, 530 yards and 12 TDs. Former Spokane receiver Quorey Payne has 33 receptions and nine touchdowns.
Spokane trails San Jose and Utah by 2½ games and Arizona by 1½ in the West Division.
“I still think we’re in the top five in the league, no one else agrees with me,” Olson said. “We’ve played some tough opponents, battled a lot of injuries and it’s been a tough start to the season. We’re starting to get better. We had a rough game in Utah, but we are getting better every week.”