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Wednesday, October 16, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Shock win a thriller, 56-52

Sometimes these type of games don't live up to the hype, but this showdown certainly did.

No. 1 Spokane outlasted No. 2 Wilkes-Barre/Scranton 56-52 Saturday night in front of a packed house of 10,561 at the Arena.

You can read my unedited game story below.

 

By Jim Meehan

Staff writer

The No. 1 and No. 2 ranked teams in arenafootball2 put on a show Saturday night.

And a great game always deserves a thrilling finish. This one didn’t disappoint on that front as Spokane’s Markee White used every inch of his 6-foot-7 frame to make a one-handed touchdown catch, accounting for the seventh lead change of the second half and propelling the top-ranked Shock past No. 2 Wilkes-Barre/Scranton 56-52 in front of 10,561 at the Arena.

White was in the game because starting receiver Charles Dillon was shaken up earlier on Spokane’s final possession. White hauled in the game-winner from Nick Davila and was quickly knocked over the dasherboards by Chris Royal.

“I used my long arms to my advantage,” White said. “It was more concentration than anything because that was a tough play to make. The (defender) wanted to knock the ball out so I just wanted to make sure I hung on to it. My shoulder pads hit the concrete (after he absorbed the hit).”

Spokane (13-1) led 56-52, but the Pioneers (11-3) still had a chance with 23.9 seconds left. They moved the ball to their 19, but with just 6.2 seconds left, quarterback Ryan Vena lofted a long pass that was intercepted by Sergio Gilliam in the end zone.

“Both sides played their butts off,” Shock coach Adam Shackleford said. “It’s been a long time since I’ve been in a game like that. At the end of arena games, you hope to have the ball last. I was excited when we scored, but I thought maybe we gave (Pioneers) coach (Rich) Ingold a little too much time.

“But our defense came up big, and our crowd came up big.”

And Gilliam came up big again, making his third interception and Spokane’s fourth pick of Vena in the game.

“In the first half they were scoring on our breakdowns,” Gilliam said. “We have to stay locked on our guys and I was one of the guys that gave up some big plays. I knew I was better than that.”

Wilkes-Barre/Scranton led 31-28 after an entertaining first half, but both offenses went quiet in the third quarter. Davila threw one interception and Spokane also was stopped inside the Pioneers’ 5.

However, Vena was intercepted twice and the Shock capitalized on the latter with Harrison Nikolao’s 3-yard run that gave Spokane the lead for the first time, 35-31.

“We had two opportunities where our defense created turnovers and we could have gone up 10 points and Vena … just stupid throws,” Ingold said. “I love Vena and I think he’s the best in the game, but he has to learn to throw the ball away.

“That’s arena football. The team that turns it over is going to lose.”

Raul Vijil took a Pioneers kickoff, started up field, shook off a defender and raced 57 yards to put Spokane on top 42-38. Entering the game, Spokane was one of five af2 teams without a kick return for a touchdown.

Wilkes-Barre/Scranton reclaimed the lead on Rich Musinski’s third touchdown catch, a nifty grab with defensive back Virgil Gray draped on him in the corner of the end zone. Vijil’s 21-yard TD reception – his third of the game – pushed Spokane back in front 49-45 with 4:13 left.

Pioneers receiver Irving Campbell broke free in the Shock secondary for a 31-yard touchdown and a 52-49 lead with 2:57 left, setting the stage for White’s heroics and another stop by the defense.

“Our defense came through at the end, that’s been the story of our season,” Shackleford said. “Our offense is steady and when they do make a mistake, our defense has their back.”

Spokane, which leads Boise (12-2) by one game in the West Division, visits Central Valley on Saturday.




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Jim Meehan
Jim Meehan joined The Spokesman-Review in 1990. Jim is currently a reporter for the Sports Desk and covers Gonzaga University basketball, Spokane Empire football, college volleyball and golf.

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