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Keefe returns to Spokane with Blaze

Former Spokane Shock head coach Rob Keefe returns to the Spokane Arena on Saturday as a member of the Utah Blaze coaching staff.

Earlier this week I talked with Keefe about the last 10 months — the time frame during which he was let go after two seasons as Shock head coach and fired after four games as offensive coordinator at Orlando this season — and filed this article that will run in Thursday's S-R.  

Keefe lands with Utah

I'm guessing ticket sales are about to go up for the Spokane-Utah game on June 16. Here's why:


Former Spokane head coach Rob Keefe is the new defensive coordinator for the Utah Blaze, one of the Shock’s West Division rivals.

Keefe, 31, was fired as Orlando’s offensive coordinator after four games this season. Keefe, along with current Blaze offensive coordinator Matt Sauk, helped Spokane win an ArenaBowl title in 2010 but Keefe was fired after a 9-10 campaign in 2011.

Utah (6-4) is coming off an 86-70 loss to Arizona. Secondary coach Mike Brown was fired to make room for Keefe. Spokane (5-4) entertains Utah on June 16.

Utah has several ex-Shock players, including Shaun Kauleinamoku, Antwan Marsh, Caesar Rayford, Antonio Narcisse, William Mulder and Al Phillips.


More on Keefe’s dismissal

The Spokane Shock were back in the news Thursday with yet another controversial move. The Shock sacked head coach Rob Keefe after two seasons, the first ending in an ArenaBowl championship and the second ending in a playoff loss to Arizona.

You can read about the reasons for Keefe's dismissal, both the organization's and Keefe's opinions, and the search for a successor here in an article that will run in Friday's S-R.

Keefe was scheduled to throw the ceremonial first pitch at the Spokane Indians game Thursday night, but that plan was revised.

Keefe out as Shock coach

Rob Keefe is out as head coach of the Spokane Shock.

Keefe, who has been part of arena football championships as a Shock player, assistant coach and head coach, will not return for a third season as the head coach. Keefe led Spokane to the ArenaBowl title in 2010, but the team had a rocky 2011 season, finishing 9-10 and losing in the first round of the AFL playoffs.

Updates later.

Shock try to even score with San Jose

The Shock return to the Arena for a showdown against San Jose on Saturday. The SaberCats ripped Spokane 76-48 in the season opener.

Spokane has won four of five games to move one game in front of San Jose, Utah and Tulsa in the race for the last National Conference playoff berth. Find my Shock-SaberCats game preview here.

Elsewhere, Cleveland defeated Pittsburgh, coached by ex-Shock head coach Chris Siegfried, on Friday night to clinch a division title and playoff berth in the American Conference.

Shock control playoff destiny

Back with a Shock notebook, led by the playoff picture, followed by a note on one of the newest players of the team, WR Randy Hymes. He played quarterback at Grambling and also had a stint at QB with Bossier-Shreveport last season when starter Raymond Philyaw went down with an injury.

Here's a link to the article that will run in Wednesday's S-R.

And here's a link to Monday's transactions, which includes ex-Shockie Bill Stull being activated from Pittsburgh's refused to report list and ex-Shockie Jerry Turner being placed on league suspension by Georgia. San Jose, Spokane's opponent Saturday, made a couple of moves at receiver.

Shock take on Vigilantes

Spokane, coming off a disappointing loss to Pittsburgh, tries to rebound against Dallas at the Arena on Saturday. Here's my preview that will run in Saturday's S-R.


Rowley benched, Stull to start

Shock head coach Rob Keefe vowed to make changes after the loss to Pittsburgh and he made a big one for Saturday's home game against Dallas. Keefe has benched veteran quarterback Kyle Rowley and AFL rookie Bill Stull will start.

Rowley has been a fixture at QB the last two seasons, but he's been inconsistent this year. Still, two weeks ago, with an ailling secondary, Keefe chose not to suit up Stull as a backup quarterback in order to dress an extra defender, an unusual move in AFL. Last week, Stull suited up, but was pressed into duty on kick return coverage and he made one tackle.

Keefe made the announcement on his radio show Monday. The Shock told media that Keefe and Stull would be available at 11:15 Tuesday, but that became 12:15 when Keefe exited a long meeting with the offensive unit and said that Stull was off limits to the media.  

Asked if other changes were in the works, Keefe said it was possible. He noted that the entire offense played "terribly" in the second half and he was clearly frustrated with the receivers. Spokane signed two receivers last week — Ryan Bagley and Chas Gessner, Rowley's former teammate at Brown who was tossed out of Saturday's game for a scrap on a kick return. WR Markee White is running patterns, but probably won't play this week. LB Antwan Marsh (ankle) is day to day .

As you'll see in the Rowley story link above, we checked in with Shock majority owner Brady Nelson to discuss the speed bump on the field that was visible during the Shock-Rattlers game two weeks ago. Nelson will be available for questions on an S-R chat Thursday at noon. More here (gotta read past Ochocinco and NCAA prez to get to Nelson!).

Shock, Keefe take on former coach

Spokane has won two straight after a 1-4 start. The Shock will try to keep their momentum going against the Pittsburgh Power, coached by ex-Shock coach Chris Siegfried. Here's my preview that will run in Saturday's S-R.

We mentioned Thursday that Pittsburgh put DL Terrence Carter on league suspension. Turns out that suspension lasted 24 hours. He's back on the active roster. 

Keefe’s gamble pays off

If you attended Saturday's Shock-Rattlers game, you may have noticed No. 2 quarterback Bill Stull didn't suit up. Find out why head coach Rob Keefe chose to go without a backup quarterback and the severity of DB Josh Ferguson's knee injury in my Shock notebook that will run in Thursday's S-R. Ferguson (No. 2) is pictured above.

—The Shock have a new addition, former Montana wide receiver Ryan Bagley.

—Spokane remained No. 10 in the latest AFL poll, despite beating No. 1 Arizona. The Rattlers, who dropped to No. 2, visit No. 3 San Jose this week. Utah, the fourth West Division team, is ranked No. 9. Jacksonville is the new No. 1.

—Former Shock kicker Brian Jackson has signed with Georgia.  

Shock ‘D’ not delivering

Spokane, masterful in winning close games in its first five seasons, is 0-3 in games decided by a touchdown or less its 1-4 start. The Shock have struggled on both sides of the ball, but the focus of my notebook that will run in Thursday's S-R was the defense.

The numbers aren't pretty, as detailed in the story link.

Fans, Keefe have their say

Shock head coach Rob Keefe fielded questions from fans for an hour Thursday in a live chat through The Spokesman-Review's website spokesman.com. You can access a replay of the Q & A here.

Shock take on Iowa on NFL Network

Spokane, still in search of its first win in the 2011 season, visits Iowa on Friday night in the NFL Network's AFL game of the week. Here's my preview.

Also, the Shock have signed offensive lineman Palauni Ma Sun, who was with the team in 2008 and played for Chicago last season. He did not make the trip to Iowa.

Shock TV and player moves

Another busy day for the Spokane Shock, who are sorting out their roster in preparation for their March 11th opener at San Jose. That game will be televised at 8 p.m. by KREM 2, with the Rob Keefe Coach's Show airing at 7:30. That link also has details on the new broadcast team (EWU football play-by-play voice Larry Weir replaces Greg Heister. Weir joins analyst Mike Peterson for the broadcast of home games.)

Former Eastern Washington Eagle Lance Witherspoon has left the Shock to go to the CFL. That link also has news on several other player transactions. 

Shock open training camp

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The Spokane Shock opened training camp Saturday and here's my article that will run in Sunday's S-R.

Some other items from the first day: Ex-Shock DB Nygel Rogers, who played for Chicago last year, signed with the Shock, but he isn't in camp. Coach Rob Keefe said it's a paperwork issue and that he isn't sure when it'll be resolved.

"We'll keep the lines of communication open," Keefe said. "We're not expecting him immediately."

Kicker Taylor Rowan and WR Dudley Guice have been put on the refused-to-report list. Rowan is back home in Florida and will be in camp at some point. The Shock know he'll be their kicker. Guice is expected to arrive soon. He apparently had flight issues. 

Keefe has it set up so that there will be groups of 2-3 players coming in three days, five days, etc., so he can look at various players.

Shock notes

Back with a Shock notebook, compiled from Monday’s visit to team headquarters in the Valley.

Read on for more on how Spokane split up the pool of money for coaches, Kyle Rowley’s Elway-esque run and updates on the health of Raul Vijil and Ben McCombs.

Spokane Shock keeping foot on throttle

Some teams rest starters when they’ve done about all they can do in the regular season (see Indianapolis Colts, 2009). Some teams don’t change their approach, even though there is risk of injury that could mar their playoff run.

Read more about Spokane’s approach here.

(By the way, that photo is of Mervin Brookins returning a kick for a touchdown, which was named the AFL’s highlight play of the week).

Tough week ends well for Keefe

I put together some Shock notes with the focus on Rob Keefe’s crazy week last week. Read on for the unedited version that will run in Wednesday’s S-R.

Shock bye-week notes

Spokane doesn’t play a game this week, but there’s still Shock news to discuss.

Read on.

Keefe: Do your job, trust your teammates

Back with a notebook after visiting Shock practice Monday. It was supposed to run in Tuesday’s S-R, but space limitations pushed it back a day.

The Shock dropped their AFL opener to Milwaukee 74-62 last Friday. Read on to hear coach Rob Keefe’s thoughts on that game and for other Shock notes.

(The picture above, by the way, is of Shock receiver Huey Whittaker trying to make a catch along the dasherboards, but he was thwarted by a fan in the front row. Whittaker clearly thought he had a shot at the catch and had some words for the fan after the play.)

Shock tackle first practice

I attended part of the Spokane Shock’s first training-camp practice today, conducted by new head coach Rob Keefe (pictured above). You can read my unedited article below that will run in Tuesday’s S-R.

Shocker: Keefe in, Shackleford out

On the team’s Web site, the first line in the bio of Adam Shackleford reads: 2010 will be Shackleford’s fourth season as head coach of the Spokane Shock.

Turns out, it won’t. The Shock decided not to retain Shackleford, who was wildly successful in three years, and picked Rob Keefe as the new head coach. (Shackleford is pictured above, with Keefe to the right).

I’ve posted an unedited article below on the change.

Keefe taking to new role as Shock assistant

Former Spokane Shock player and fan favorite Rob Keefe is back in Spokane serving as an assistant coach on the af2 team he helped to a championship in 2006.

You can read the feature story on Keefe that appeared in Tuesday morning’s S-R here.  And check back later in the week for an advance story on the Shock’s af2 season-opener against Stockton in the Arena on Friday night.