The Spokane Shock didn’t play their best football Thursday but they did when the game was on the line.
Spokane scored on all of its second-half possessions and Ruschard Dodd-Masters returned two interceptions for touchdowns in the final two minutes, leading the Shock to a hard-earned 69-47 victory over the Chicago Rush at the Arena in the first round of the Arena Football League National Conference playoffs.
Third-seeded Spokane (15-4) will play for the National Conference championship next week against No. 1 Arizona or No. 4 San Jose. Those two meet Sunday in Phoenix.
Don’t let the final score fool you. This one was in doubt deep into the fourth quarter as Chicago, led by seldom-used quarterback Luke Drone, put up a spirited effort.
“We really finished that game,” coach Andy Olson said. “The defense finished that game for us.”
Spokane took a 48-41 lead on Adron Tennell’s third touchdown reception with 12:12 remaining. Chicago answered on J.J. Payne’s TD run, but kicker Dan Frantz, signed earlier Thursday after an injury to Jose Martinez, missed the PAT wide left, leaving Chicago down 48-47. Frantz appeared to be hobbled as well but still managed to hit 5 of 7 PATs
Spokane scored on Erik Meyer’s 3-yard run to boost its lead to 55-47.
Drone, fading in the pocket with Spokane’s pass rush closing in, threw in the right flat. Dodd-Masters stepped in front of the receiver and raced 7 yards for the touchdown.
Two plays later, he hauled in an errant Drone pass and scored on a 24-yard return, extending Spokane’s lead to 22.
“I didn’t have a plan. I was just trying to make a play on the run so I jumped up as high as I could and I was able to tip it to myself,” Dodd-Masters said of the first interception. “On the second one, (receiver) Reggie (Gray) flinched – he thought I was coming to hit him – and he got gator arms. The ball just fell into my arms.”
Spokane’s defense collected four interceptions, three in the last two minutes. Meyer finished with five touchdown passes and two rushing TDs.