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Spokane Empire

Shock host road-savvy Rush in opener

The Chicago Rush probably faced more adversity than any other team in the Arena Football League, but they’re still standing.

They’ve gone through two owners – one before the 2013 season and one during the season. They played three “home games” 75 miles away in Rockford, Ill., and instead of hosting San Jose last week the game was played in San Jose, Calif.

Still, the Rush compiled a 10-8 record, won the Central Division and the well-traveled squad will attempt to derail Spokane’s title hopes in a first-round playoff game tonight at the Arena.

By league rules, Chicago should be the home team as a division winner, but it lost that right when the AFL took over running the team’s day-to-day operations in May. League owners have paid the Rush’s bills for two straight seasons.

“They’ve done a great job,” Shock coach Andy Olson said. “They’ve had talent all year so it doesn’t surprise me, but with the struggles they’ve had with ownership and their arena they’ve overcome a lot.

“That shows a good character about that team. They’re dangerous, home or away.”

The Rush finished the regular season on the road for four of their last five games, going 3-2 in that stretch with wins over playoff-bound Tampa Bay and a 21-point rout of No. 1 seed Arizona. Following Saturday’s 65-40 loss at San Jose, the Rush flew to Chicago on Sunday and arrived in Spokane on Wednesday.

“We’ve played with short turnarounds before,” Olson said. “It’s tiring for the players and coaches, but they know what they’re doing.”

Chicago ranks fifth in scoring offense (54.1) and eighth in scoring defense (52.6). Receiver Reggie Gray was one of the AFL’s most productive receivers with 1,978 yards and 46 touchdowns. He’s returned three kickoffs for touchdowns.

“I’d put him at least in the top two or three in the league,” Shock defensive back Terrance Sanders said. “He’s a world-class challenge.”

Quarterback Carson Coffman had a solid season with 73 touchdown passes and 17 interceptions. He tossed seven TDs – four to Gray – and no interceptions in Chicago’s 76-61 home loss to Spokane in Week 2.

“His timing with his receivers is better and more than anything he just manages the game well and doesn’t turn the ball over,” Olson said.

Thursday’s winner advances to the National Conference title game against the winner of Sunday’s Arizona-San Jose game.

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