July 25, 2013 in Sports

Shock look to close regular season on high note

By The Spokesman-Review
 

Head coach Andy Olson believes Spokane is playing its best football of the Arena Football League season.

That takes some doing, considering the Shock had just two turnovers – both fumbles – in a five-game winning streak to open the season.

“Our defense is playing a lot better, I’m very excited for them,” Olson said. “The offense needs to pick it up a little bit. We’ve kind of relied on (defense) too much. Our special teams are playing fantastic right now. I’m very confident in this team and I think we can do some good things.”

The timing for Spokane’s improved play couldn’t be better with the playoffs beginning next week. First, though, the second-ranked Shock (13-4) close the regular season against Pittsburgh (4-13) tonight at 7 at the Arena.

The game won’t have an impact on the playoffs – Spokane will entertain Chicago on Thursday – but the Shock want to keep playing at a high level.

“Just continue to get better,” defensive lineman James Ruffin said. “We don’t want to have any lulls at the end of the season.”

Spokane, which has won four straight games by an average of 30.5 points, is favored to handle the Power, but the visitors are coming off a 48-37 road win over playoff-bound Tampa Bay. That win snapped Pittsburgh’s seven-game losing skid, including 78-20 to San Jose and 59-21 to Philadelphia.

After a miserable night in San Jose two weeks ago, Power quarterback Shane Austin bounced back last Saturday to pass for 249 yards and four touchdowns. Pittsburgh has played four quarterbacks, including ex-Shock backup Steven Sheffield.

“They have a decent defense, they really do,” Olson said. “They’ve struggled on offense because of all the different quarterbacks going in and out but they played well last week versus Tampa Bay.”

The Power rank last in scoring offense (40.2 ppg), 11th in scoring defense (56.1) and 12th in turnover margin (-1.24). They’ve allowed the most sacks in the AFL (52).

“We can’t let down,” Ruffin said. “Any team can beat you on any given night.”

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