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Shock take long ride for redemption

Shock quarterback Erik Meyer says the offense needs to pick up the pace in Tampa.  (Dan Pelle)
Shock quarterback Erik Meyer says the offense needs to pick up the pace in Tampa. (Dan Pelle)

There are no direct commercial flights to cover the 2,328 air miles from Spokane to Tampa. It took the Spokane Shock the better part of Friday to make it to Florida.

It’s a long journey, but it would be an even longer return trip if the Shock doesn’t take care of business against the Tampa Bay Storm Saturday night at 4:30 PST. The game will be televised on CBS Sports Network.

Spokane (3-2), coming off a disheartening loss to Cleveland, is a half-game ahead of San Jose (3-3) in the Pacific Division. Tampa Bay (3-3) has dropped three of its last four. The Storm gave up 77 points to South Division-leading Orlando (4-2) last week.

“We love playing on the road,” said receiver Brandon Thompkins, a prep standout in Palm Beach, Fla. “We love going in and being the bad guy. We play good that way.”

The Shock played fairly well against Cleveland but couldn’t overcome three turnovers early in the third quarter and they failed to defend a Hail Mary pass on the final play.

“Just focusing, making sure we’re making plays and obviously taking care of the ball,” quarterback Erik Meyer said of tonight’s keys. “The defense has been playing really well and we have to pick it up on offense.”

Tampa Bay has one of the AFL’s top offenses. Randy Hippeard has tossed 40 touchdowns, second in the league, but his 10 interceptions are the most among starting quarterbacks. Former Shock receiver Joe Hills has returned to the lineup after off-season knee surgery. T.T. Toliver, who joined the Storm roughly two weeks ago, had 12 catches for 136 yards and five touchdowns in his debut last week.

“It’ll be a good test for our defense,” Shock coach Andy Olson said. “Joe has been giving us troubles since I’ve been here. T.T. is one of the best. He puts you to sleep, runs great routs and understands the game extremely well.”

Tampa Bay has allowed 50 touchdowns, second only to Orlando’s 53. The Storm allows an average of 57.3 points, 12th of 14 AFL teams.