The tone was set early.
Nice Spokane Empire kick return, swift touchdown drive. Repeat.
Spokane scored on all eight first-half possessions, six of those drives starting in Colorado territory, and went on to hammer the visiting Crush 97-72 Saturday at the Arena.
Spokane’s offensive efficiency continued in the second half – and so did the favorable field position. The Empire scored on all six possessions, the first four beginning at midfield after the Crush opted to kick the ball out of bounds rather than deal with the return tandem of Trevor Kennedy and Robert Brown.
Fourteen Spokane possessions, 14 touchdowns, capped by Kennedy’s 15-yard run with 53 seconds left to break the franchise’s single-game scoring record. The previous best was 90 points versus San Jose in a 2012 Arena Football League contest. It’s believed to be the second-highest point total in Indoor Football League history.
“To come out as an offense and be lights out and score on every possession, that where we want to be,” said quarterback Charles Dowdell. “It was really good to see us put it all together in front of this great fan base.”
The Empire (4-1 overall, 3-0 at home) lead the Intense Conference standings heading into two straight road games. Wichita Falls (4-2), which won at Tri-Cities, is Spokane’s closest pursuer. Colorado dropped to 0-6.
Kennedy, who had four rushing touchdowns last week, struck for seven more (four rushing, three receiving). Dowdell completed 21 of 27 attempts and tossed eight touchdown passes. He added 53 yards rushing.
J.J. Hayes another big game with eight catches for 95 yards and two touchdowns. Carl Sims added seven receptions for 53 yards and three scores.
“We’re capable of that,” head coach Adam Shackleford said. “You won’t see that every week but we blocked well, ran well, protected the quarterback and Charles made really good decisions with the ball.”
Spokane racked up 99 return yards, 28 coming after a Crush missed field goal, in the first quarter to set up the offense at Colorado’s 22, 15, 17 and 17. The Empire scored three touchdowns on their first five plays from scrimmage to take a 21-6 lead.
The points kept coming. Kennedy somersaulted into the end zone to complete a 5-yard scoring play and Spokane led 28-13.
“We had a great week of practice and bought into what we’re doing,” Hayes said. “When your special teams play like that, it makes it easy on the offense.”
Another Kennedy touchdown – he had five in the first half – bumped Spokane’s lead to 35-19 early in the second quarter. The defense got into the act as linebacker Pasquale Vacchio made a one-handed interception, giving the Empire possession at the Crush 11-yard line.
Linebacker Nick Haag came in at fullback and plowed in from the 1 to extend the Empire’s lead to 42-19.
Spokane appeared to be stopped after Kyle Brotzman’s 28-yard field-goal attempt missed wide right. However, Colorado was flagged for a personal foul and two plays later Kennedy and Dowdell connected again, giving Spokane a 56-31 halftime lead.
“I feel like we were taking what they gave us,” Dowdell said. “I think we played our game and didn’t try to play their game.”
Both offenses continued to roll in the second half as the teams traded scores well into the fourth quarter. Spokane broke out a trick play with receiver Justin Helwege taking a pitch from Dowdell and tossing a 2-yard touchdown pass to Sims for a 76-51 lead.
On its next series, Spokane faced a rare fourth down but converted with Dowdell firing a 5-yard scoring pass to Sims.
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