Spokane reaches the midpoint of the Arena Football League season following tonight’s home game against Philadelphia. How those first nine games are measured depends in large part on tonight’s outcome.
A win over Philadelphia (7-2) would boost Spokane (4-4) above .500 for the first time this year, rank as the biggest victory of the season considering the Soul’s No. 2 ranking and enhance the Shock’s playoff chances.
On the flip side, a loss would leave Spokane to 2-3 at home, drop the Shock below .500 and head coach Andy Olson might begin rehearsing Jim Mora’s infamous “Playoffs?!” speech.
Knowing what’s at stake and the caliber of the opponent, Olson dialed up the intensity at practice this week. There were scuffles and, despite dealing with several injuries, physical play.
“I decided to make it a little more competitive, high tempo, fast paced, more game like,” Olson said. “We haven’t been as disciplined as we want to be. We picked it up a little and the guys responded.”
“Philadelphia is a physical team and we’re going to come out and be physical,” Shock receiver Adron Tennell said.
Philadelphia leads the AFL in scoring at 70.3 points per game. The Soul put up 92 points on Georgia, 84 on Pittsburgh and 83 on Tampa Bay. They scored at least 60 points in every game until last week when they defeated Jacksonville 56-38.
Quarterback Dan Raudabaugh has 60 touchdown passes and ranks fourth in the AFL with a 122.4 passer rating. Tiger Jones is second in receiving yards per game and Jeff Hughley is third in all-purpose yardage. Ex-Shock receiver Emery Sammons has been solid filling in for the injured Donovan Morgan.
“They’ve very good, very efficient, structured,” Olson said. “They’re very athletic, a veteran team and they bring a physical aspect to the game similar to (No. 1-ranked) San Jose.”
The teams will meet again late in the regular season in Philadelphia.