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Empire avenge only loss by blowing out Billings Wolves 75-28

Spokane decided revenge is a dish best served by the score of 75-28.

The Empire avenged their only loss with a payback blowout over the Billings Wolves in front of 4,485 Saturday at the Arena. The 47-point margin is Spokane’s most lopsided win in its inaugural Indoor Football League season. The Wolves’ 28 points represented a season low for an Empire opponent.

Running back Trevor Kennedy showed his customary nose for the end zone. The IFL scoring leader had four touchdowns as the Empire rolled to their sixth consecutive victory.

Spokane (8-1, 5-1) extended its Intense Conference lead over Nebraska (5-6, 2-1) heading into next Saturday’s showdown with five-time defending IFL champion Sioux Falls (9-1) in South Dakota.

Billings, which entered with the IFL’s No. 1 scoring defense (40.7), dropped to 4-6.

“We knew it would be a hard-fought game, they’re a physical team,” defensive back Josh Ferguson said. “But like Tri-Cities, we play them multiple times and we have to try to make a statement every time we play them.”

Spokane dominated from the start to finish. The Empire led 41-7 early in the third quarter after Charles Dowdell’s 16-yard touchdown pass to Samuel Charles. The same two connected again to put Spokane on top 53-14 at the end of the third.

The Empire committed six turnovers in a 30-22 road loss to Billings in early March. They cruised past the 22-point mark on a Kennedy touchdown run with 5:12 remaining in the second quarter.

Spokane scored on its first four possessions, assisted by a couple of key penalties on the Wolves. Kennedy sprinted 20, 21 and 16 yards for touchdowns and Dowdell added an 11-yard scoring run. Three of Kennedy’s TDs came on the same play call that begins with him motioning across the formation.

“Sweep zone,” Kennedy said. “I got a great block from JJ (Hayes) on a corner on one of those. I just had to show up and get into the end zone.”

Spokane’s defense delivered three straight first-half stops as the Empire opened up a 27-7 halftime lead. Billings was 1 yard away from a game-tying touchdown but the Empire forced two incomplete passes and stuffed running back Nate Burney for no gain. After the Wolves were flagged for a false start, linebacker Pasquale Vacchio broke up a fourth-down pass.

Billings was stymied on its next series on defensive back Lorenzo White Jr.’s diving interception.

Vacchio came up with another pass break-up on fourth down to end a Wolves’ possession at Spokane’s 17-yard line.

“The addition of D.J (Yendrey) has helped us and we got (Brett) Bowers back,” head coach Adam Shackleford said. “The DBs are really playing well.”

The defense was back at it in the second half. Robert Smith stripped the ball away from Burney, leading to Ferguson’s 36-yard touchdown return.

“My whole career I don’t know if a play like that has ever happened for me, where the ball just bounced right in front of me,” Ferguson said. “I didn’t have to do anything but run.”

Smith intercepted a pass in the fourth quarter and Spokane capitalized with another touchdown for a 61-14 advantage.

Dowdell finished 15 of 20 for 169 yards and three touchdowns before sitting out the fourth quarter. Backup Aaron Aiken led a touchdown drive that concluded with Charles’ third touchdown reception. Kennedy had 85 yards on just eight attempts.

“Very efficient,” Shackleford said. “We got (recent addition Diondre) Borel involved. He’s going to be a player. We rested (offensive lineman) Mike Trice with a knee injury. (Kyle) Fischer and (Brandon) Haskin played well. We have some depth and we need it because we don’t have a bye for a while.”


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