This is starting to sound like a broken record. Spokane continues its stretch against top-notch Arena Football League defenses when Jacksonville visits the Arena Saturday night at 7. Both teams are 8-3, but their strengths are on opposite sides of the ball.
No. 2 Spokane puts up 67 points per game, second in the AFL, and has allowed just eight sacks. The third-ranked Sharks lead the league in sacks (30) and scoring defense (44.9 ppg).
Defensive-minded opponents have become a recurring theme for Spokane, which faced San Antonio (45.2 ppg allowed at the time) two weeks ago and San Jose (47.1 ppg) last week. The Shock averaged 68 points in a pair of wins.
“Jacksonville is very physical up front,” Shock coach Andy Olson said. “They lead the league by six sacks and they’re constantly hitting the quarterback. Defensively, they’re so sound. Offensively, they’ve had ups and downs, but they have a lot of veterans on this team.”
Several of those veterans are familiar names to Shock followers. Defensive lineman Jerry Turner, mack linebacker Aaron Robbins and receiver Markee White were key players on Spokane’s 2010 AFL championship team.
Turner has eight sacks and Robbins 7.5. Jacksonville’s defense has forced four turnovers in five games, including three of its last four. Terrance Smith has seven interceptions and Tracy Belton has forced four fumbles.
The Sharks lead the South Division by one game over Tampa Bay, which knocked off Spokane at the Arena in late April, but they’ve had a favorable schedule. Jacksonville’s eight wins are against opponents with a combined record of 28-54. The Sharks’ losses are against Arizona, San Jose and San Antonio. Spokane is 4-0 against those three teams.
The Shock’s eight wins are against foes with a 43-40 record.
Jacksonville has solid receivers in Jeron Harvey (88 catches, 903 yards, 24 touchdowns), Jeff Hughley (69-771-12) and White (63-652-14). Quarterback Bernard Morris has tossed 48 touchdowns and just six interceptions. He’s also run for 251 yards and eight TDs.
“Good quarterback, big receivers, physical on offense,” Shock linebacker Beau Bell said. “The quarterback will step up in the pocket and throw it or take off on us. We know we have to get to him.”