Sports

With playoff spot set, goal is to continue momentum

The rust versus rest debate isn’t as applicable to the Arena Football League as some other sports. Teams don’t have much depth to begin with and can only suit 20 players on game day.

Still, Spokane is in a position where it could rest certain players this week. The Shock (13-4) clinched the No. 3 seed in the National Conference and a home playoff game against Chicago, but they have one more regular-season assignment Friday against visiting Pittsburgh (4-13).

“I’m not planning on resting a bunch of guys,” coach Andy Olson said. “There might be one or two that are beat up, but it will be more to see who we want to play in the playoffs. We’ll make those decisions toward the end of the week.”

Spokane has injury concerns at defensive back, receiver, linebacker and offensive line. Offensive lineman Chris Pino (knee) and Mac linebacker Beau Bell (ankle) were shaken up in Friday’s rout of San Antonio. Bell and Pino spent a good portion of Tuesday’s practice conditioning.

Former Washington Husky Ben Ossai, who started on the offensive line for Spokane in 2011 before stints in the UFL and CFL, worked with the first team Tuesday. Ossai was released six days before the B.C. Lions’ season opener.

Olson said he’s fearful of losing the momentum that Spokane has built in a four-game winning streak.

“I want us to come in and play our best game of the season,” he said. “Whether the starters are in or the quote-unquote ‘backups’ are in, I want to win and make sure our confidence is as high as it can be going in to the playoffs.”

Quarterback Erik Meyer was removed in the third quarter against the Talons with the game in hand.

“I want (Arvell Nelson) to play,” Olson said, “but we’re going to try to win the game.”

Weird week

A largely predictable AFL season offered a few surprises last week.

Not in Spokane, where the Shock pounded San Antonio 77-30 to improve to 13-4 – all 13 wins by double digits, an AFL record, and 10 of those by at least 15 points.

In Phoenix, however, top-ranked Arizona was blasted by visiting Chicago 63-42 in front of 11,353, its largest crowd of the season. The Rattlers had been ranked No. 1 for 11 weeks. Chicago clinched a playoff berth.

“I was amazed, but Chicago is a good team,” Shock nose guard Terrance Taylor said. “When you put someone’s back against the wall, things can happen.”

In San Jose, the second-ranked SaberCats fell behind 27-0 and lost to Philadelphia 65-43. Those results suggest No. 3 Spokane could return to the top spot, but the coaches’ poll sometimes defies logic. Two weeks ago Spokane beat No. 4 Jacksonville on the road by 22 points and dropped from second to third. San Jose moved up to second by thumping Pittsburgh (3-13).

The playoff matchups set top-seeded Arizona facing No. 4 San Jose and No. 3 Spokane entertaining No. 2 Chicago. The AFL has informed the Shock that’s the case but it hasn’t made an official announcement.

“I’m happy to get a home game and hopefully we can take advantage of it,” Olson said.

Notes

Spokane’s playoff opener will be on Thursday, Aug. 1, because the Arena has an event booked for Friday and Saturday. … The AFL is apparently planning an All-Star game in Honolulu in November and another one in China in the near future, according to a release by AFL Global. However, Philadelphia general manager and AFL Global member Tom Goodhines told Philly.com the release was sent prematurely and the games still need AFL approval.



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