Spokane puts its unbeaten record on the line against Boise, which is also 2-0 on the young season, on Saturday at Qwest Arena in Boise. It's the first road game of the season for the top-ranked Shock.
Read my unedited preview below.
By Jim Meehan
The phone calls started up again last Sunday, a day after the Spokane Shock and Boise Burn hiked their arenafootball2 records to 2-0.
That’s what happens when teammates face ex-teammates.
“I talked to Roshawn (Marshall) on Sunday and I talked to Tremaine (Tyler) before the games Saturday and also to Nygel (Rogers) even a little earlier,” Shock defensive back Sergio Gilliam said of his former teammates who now have ties to Boise. “I think they have five of our guys from last year. I wish them the best of luck, but I’m looking forward to playing those guys and seeing them again.”
The top-ranked Shock visit the fifth-ranked Burn in a West Division first-place showdown tonight at 6:10 at Qwest Arena in Boise. It’s a matchup of two of the five af2 unbeatens.
Among the former Shock players with the Burn are LB Levi Madarieta (who was on Spokane’s ArenaCup championship team in 2006), OL Palauni Ma Sun and DL David Stanton. Marshall had been starting, but he was placed on team suspension Thursday. Rogers signed with Boise but hasn’t reported. Tyler was officially added to the roster Thursday.
Boise first-year coach Brent Winter is familiar with a number of Shock players from his seven years as an assistant coach with Los Angeles of the Arena Football League.
“About 50 percent of that roster last year I had down in L.A. for workouts – (Ryan) Belcher, Stanton, Nygel, Nick Davila,” Winter said. “We came to camp with Andy Collins as our third quarterback and we were going to move Collins to jack linebacker. I started bugging (the head coach) that I wanted to bring in Nick.
“Same thing with David (Stanton). I went back to the head coach 3-4 times to get him on the team but for whatever reason it didn’t happen. Sometimes we didn’t have the spots to do it and a lot of factors go into it.”
Spokane coach Adam Shackleford expects Boise’s ex-Shock players to be amped up for the game. “I’m sure some of those guys probably aren’t thrilled they weren’t invited back,” he said. “But I know this – we’re thrilled with the guys we have here.”
Boise’s defense and special teams have done the heavy lifting in road wins over Tri-Cities and Bossier-Shreveport. Madarieta has three interceptions and DBs Terrance Sanders and Ernest James both have two. Boise is plus-4 in turnover margin.
“We have a good defense, but we’ll see,” Winter said. “You don’t know how good or bad you are until you play the best. (Spokane) might beat 50 percent of Arena 1 teams.”
Rudy Carlton and ex-Boise State Bronco Taylor Tharp have split time at quarterback, but their combined completion percentage is below 50. Jomo Wilson, Casey Allen and Nichiren Flowers are a formidable receiving trio. Wilson returned seven kicks for touchdowns last year with Central Valley.
Shock defensive lineman Ben McCombs has 43.5 career sacks, one behind af2 all-time leader C.J. McLain. … Recently signed receiver Johnny Walker isn’t expected to play. With Andy Olson (knee) out, Gilliam probably will serve as the fourth receiver behind Patrick Bugg, Raul Vijil and Charles Dillon. … Boise signed kicker Ben Scott, who is expected to replace Ben Aguilar, who was 9 of 15 on PATs.