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Saturday, October 24, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Sauk lends helping hand

Back with a Shock notebook that will run in Thursday's S-R. The unedited version is below.

By Jim Meehan

Staff writer

Call it a working vacation.

Former Spokane Shock assistant coach Matt Sauk is back helping the team this week. Sauk’s coaching stint last season was interrupted by a two-month period when he played quarterback for the Arizona Rattlers in the Arena Football League. Sauk gave up playing and coaching this season to be with his family in Utah.

On Tuesday, Sauk scanned a play sheet and barked out commands during a Shock practice at the Arena. He’ll stay through Friday’s home game against Oklahoma City, which happens to be coached by ‘Sparky’ McEwen, who was Sauk’s coach at AFL Grand Rapids.

“The Shock are 11-0, so obviously they’re doing something right,” said Sauk, as his two young daughters waited patiently for an interview to end. “I’m a details guy. I’m just trying to make sure they’re doing everything right.”

Sauk and his daughters are staying at head coach Adam Shackleford’s house.

“My son is learning the word ‘share’ for the first time,” Shackleford joked. “I’ve known Matt for a long time. It feels like he and his girls are part of the family.”

Sauk watches every Shock game on arenafootball2’s Nifty TV and said the Shock’s experience is evident.

“When I watch (quarterback) Nick (Davila) or (receiver) Andy Olson or anyone who played here last year, the comfort level is a lot different,” Sauk said.

Sauk’s playing and coaching days are probably over.

“I’ve been away from my family for the last eight years,” he said, “and I’m ready not to do that any more.”

Fighting chance

Shock defensive end Ben McCombs remembers being a spectator at a Mixed Martial Arts event and wondering, “Why am I not out there?”

That will change Sept. 12 when the 6-foot-4, 265-pound McCombs participates in a 10-fight MMA card at the Arena.

“It doesn’t matter who I fight, I’m going in there to throw down with somebody for a little bit,” he said.

McCombs is already training for the fight. He said there is some crossover with football drills and he works out at a jiu-jitsu club.

“If opportunities come from this, then I’ll have to weigh both sides (football and MMA) and see,” he said. “It’s an opportunity I couldn’t pass up and I get to do it here in Spokane.”

Fine debut

Shock newcomer Johnie Kirton had 2.5 tackles in his af2 debut against Tri-Cities last Saturday. The former Washington Husky played defensive end, filling in for the injured Jeff Van Orsow, and on special teams.

“By the end of the second quarter, the pace of the game caught up to me,” he said. “It’s a little different, especially with an offense like ours. By the time I’d get to the bench, they’ve scored again and you’re right back on the field.”

Kirton wrapped up his UW career in December and had a couple workouts with CFL and NFL teams. He could see some time at fullback in Friday’s game.


As expected, af2 announced that the ArenaCup will be played at the Orleans Arena in Las Vegas. … Spokane maintained the top spot in the af2 poll for a record-setting 15th straight week. Oklahoma City (7-5) is No. 11. … Receiver Charles Dillon, who missed last week’s game with a high ankle sprain, was expected to practice Wednesday. He wasn’t sure if he’ll play Friday. … Van Orsow, who had surgery to repair a torn tendon in his finger, said there’s an outside chance he could return during the playoffs.

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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