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Friday, March 22, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Smith throws six touchdown passes, leads Shock to win in first start

Spokane scored on every possession, except for a missed opportunity in the closing seconds of the first half.

The Shock defense forced two turnovers and produced a touchdown on a fumble recovery in the end zone.

Special teams, spotty in the first five games, came through with a pair of TDs.

Three phases of the game, three wins for Spokane, which routed the L.A. Kiss 68-46 in front of 7,960 Friday night at the Arena.

Quarterback Warren Smith, who beat out Carson Coffman for the starting job, passed for 313 yards and six touchdowns in a turnover-free performance. Mike Washington snagged four TD catches and finished with 129 yards receiving.

“We did a good job making plays,” said Smith, who completed 23 of 29 attempts. “I missed a couple of easy throws but the offensive line played great. We needed it. Nobody wants to be 1-4. I’m just glad we came out and got the win.”

Smith, who played for Trenton the last two seasons in the Professional Indoor Football League, found out Thursday morning he had earned his first Arena Football League start. Head coach Andy Olson opened every position up to competition following last Saturday’s disappointing loss at New Orleans.

“Warren played an outstanding game,” said Olson, whose team improved to 2-4. “He got us out of third-and-long and fourth-and-long multiple times. Just very good leadership from a rookie quarterback.”

L.A. continues to be the perfect tonic for its opponents. The Kiss dropped to 0-7 and they’ve lost 13 straight games dating back to last season.

Spokane scored on offense, defense and special teams in the first half. Smith delivered three touchdown passes. Sergio Gilliam alertly scooped up a bar-ball kickoff that bounded away from returner Ruschard Dodd-Masters and raced 52 yards for a touchdown. It was the first kick return of Gilliam’s lengthy arena career. Making it even sweeter, he was the up-man in the formation.

“I always practice it for situations just in case. I’m faster than the coaches thought I was, you can put that in the paper,” a smiling Gilliam said. “We know our special teams haven’t played Shock football in the past but we worked hard on it and we want to continue to get better.”

Taylor Rowan’s bar-ball kickoff bounced out to the 11-yard line and into the arms of Nick Truesdell, who coasted into the end zone. Defensive linemen James Ruffin and Bryson Kelly sacked L.A. quarterback Matt Bassuener, who coughed up the football. Micah King, signed earlier this week, recovered the ball in the end zone for a touchdown as Spokane extended its lead to 41-20 late in the second quarter.

L.A. scored two touchdowns in the first seven minutes but slowed down the rest of the way. Bassuener, who played briefly for Spokane this season, had five TD passes before leaving with a broken hand in the fourth quarter.

Smith became Spokane’s fourth starting quarterback and the fifth to play the position. He dug Spokane out of a first-and-26 hole in the first half with a touchdown pass to Truesdell. Spokane faced a first-and-30 late in the third quarter, but Smith connected with Washington on consecutive plays, the latter a 25-yarder for a touchdown.

“I told everyone at Monday’s meeting that every position is up for grabs,” Olson said. “Warren and Coffman battled during the week and Warren edged him out. Warren played extremely well tonight and we’re moving forward with it.”

Spokane entertains unbeaten San Jose next Saturday.

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