The Spokane Shock will be in the Arena Football League playoffs, but there wasn’t much of a celebration after their 63-49 victory over Tampa Bay on Saturday.
That’s because it didn’t become official until games later Saturday went final. It’s also because reaching the playoffs wasn’t at the top of the team’s list of goals.
“Getting into the playoffs is a great accomplishment,” head coach Andy Olson said, “but the ultimate goal is to win a championship.”
The Shock (11-4) and West Division rival San Jose (11-4) clinched playoff berths Saturday. Arizona (13-2) is closing in on the West title and top seed.
Spokane and San Jose are likely battling for the third and fourth seeds – division winners are guaranteed the top two seeds – and No. 3 looks far more appealing than No. 4. The third seed probably avoids a first-round road date with defending ArenaBowl champion Arizona and could end up hosting a playoff game if Chicago wins the Central. There has been speculation Chicago would travel in the first round because the franchise has experienced ownership and arena issues.
Chicago (8-7) and San Antonio (8-7) are tied for first. The Rush currently hold the tiebreaker.
“Our goal is to be second place in the division,” Olson said. “We have to win out, we really feel like we have to because of the way San Jose is playing. We’d rather play the other division winner the first week and see what happens.”
The Shock’s 11 wins eclipsed last year’s 10-win season. Spokane has qualified for the playoffs three times in its four years in the AFL.
On the road again
Spokane’s final road trip of the season is a long one – in mileage and duration.
For the second time this season, the Shock opted to stay on the road instead of returning home between games. Spokane defeated Tampa Bay on Saturday and bused 200 miles northeast to Jacksonville to prepare for Saturday’s game against the playoff-bound Sharks.
Remaining in Florida saves the team some money, even with bills for a week of lodging, compared with returning to Spokane and then flying back across the country. It also allows for additional preparation time and for players to adapt to the heat and humidity. It’s expected to be 90 degrees today in Jacksonville and Spokane, but the humidity will be 69 percent in Jacksonville compared with 28 percent locally.
“Two trips is just too much travel,” Olson said. “You’re almost able to focus more when you’re on the road. You spend more time with each other and get more work done in the process.”
Spokane did something similar between its second and third games, remaining in Chicago after a win over the Rush and later busing to Des Moines to face Iowa. The Shock capped the eight-day trip with a 23-point blowout of the Barnstormers.
The Shock, who will be in Florida for 10 days, are 6-2 in road games.
They will practice outside at the Sharks’ facility. The Sharks stayed in Spokane and practiced at the Arena last month when they had consecutive road dates against Spokane and Utah.
Jacksonville’s R.J. Archer was knocked out of last week’s game and former Shock quarterback Kyle Rowley guided the Sharks past Orlando.
Bernard Morris was the starter before suffering a leg injury in a 76-41 loss to Spokane last month. He was activated from injured reserve Monday.
“I’d assume it’ll be Morris because he was the guy before he was hurt,” Olson said, “but you never know.”
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