Spokane-Arizona has been as good as rivalries get in the Arena Football League since 2010.
The latest installment comes tonight at the Arena, but it’s maybe not so much Spokane vs. Arizona as Spokane vs. Spokane.
It won’t have any playoff implications for the Shock (8-7), who are locked into a first-round road playoff game with second-seeded San Jose. However, a favorable outcome could send a message to the Rattlers (14-1) and the rest of the AFL that Spokane is hitting its stride at just the right time.
“We’re trying to prove to ourselves who we are more than anything else,” Shock coach Andy Olson said. “I think everyone knows how good we are, but we haven’t done it yet. We haven’t shown it on the field.
“If we can play consistent football offensively and defensively, I think everyone needs to see it and believe it. If we beat a team like Arizona, everyone will get their eyes opened up.”
Spokane won the first four games in the series but has lost seven of the last eight. The Shock’s lone victory in that stretch was a 66-49 rout last April in the Arena.
The Rattlers’ unbeaten season came to a halt with a 62-33 road loss to San Jose two weeks ago. Olson said the SaberCats were the more physical team, something he hopes to see from the Shock tonight. Both teams are coming off a bye week.
Arizona’s Nick Davila and Spokane’s Erik Meyer are widely considered the top two quarterbacks in the league. Meyer was the league MVP last year. Davila won the award in 2011. Davila has guided Arizona to two straight titles. Meyer and the Shock lost to Arizona in the 2013 National Conference championship game.
“He’s very efficient, a great quarterback, one of the best players in this league,” Meyer said of Davila, who played for Spokane in 2008-09 in arenafootball2. “It’ll be fun competing against him and seeing who comes out on top. I’m looking at the Shock coming out on top.”
Arizona has clinched home-field advantage for the National Conference playoffs but is battling Cleveland (14-1) for the overall top seed.