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Turnovers plague Empire in 35-21 loss to Billings

BILLINGS – A makeshift lineup, turnovers and penalties wasn’t a good combination for Spokane, which was held to a season-low point total in a 35-21 loss to Billings to close the regular season Saturday.

Spokane (12-4) played without its starting center and defensive tackle, and inserted defensive back Adrian James at wideout to join JJ Hayes and Diondre Borel, the team’s only two healthy receivers.

Spokane had five turnovers – the Wolves scored on an interception and fumble return – and committed nine penalties. The Empire scored just two touchdowns, both in the second quarter. Their only second-half points came on a field goal and a blocked PAT return for two points by Lorenzo White Jr.

Spokane, which committed 20 turnovers in its four losses this season, had six giveaways in a 30-22 road loss to Billings on March 12.

Spokane returns to action on July 17 in the Intense Conference championship game at the Arena against Billings (8-8) or Nebraska. The Empire and Wolves split four regular-season meetings.

Spokane trailed 19-16 at halftime after committing four turnovers, including three interceptions by Charles Dowdell.

Pat Clarke’s 37-yard field goal gave Spokane a 3-0 lead but the Wolves struck for consecutive touchdowns, one on defensive lineman B.J. Butler’s 37-yard interception return.

Linebackers Nick Haag and Pasquale Vacchio occasionally see time at running back and both produced a short touchdown run, sandwiched around a Robert Brown interception, giving Spokane a 16-13 lead.

Spokane’s last three possessions of the half ended with an interception, fumble and interception.

Facing third-and-10, Borel fought for extra yardage and a first down but was stripped of the ball, leading to Michael Green’s 17-yard touchdown return and a 35-21 Wolves lead with 5:46 remaining.

Spokane was limited to 139 total yards, its only game below 200 yards this season.

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