The Spokane Shock return home tonight and the starting lineup will look almost the same as the last time they played at the Arena three weeks ago.
The receiving unit welcomes back Andy Olson and Charles Dillon. Olson missed two games after spraining the medial collateral ligament in his left knee, and Dillon missed roughly six quarters with a rib injury. Defensive back Sergio Gilliam is expected to play despite suffering a shoulder injury last Saturday.
Offensive lineman Ryan Belcher (mono) will miss his second straight game when arenafootball2’s top-ranked Shock (4-0) entertain No. 11 Iowa (3-2) at 7.
Spokane stretched its road winning streak to 13 with victories over division rivals Boise and Stockton. The Shock’s average margin of victory is 21.5 points.
“I think we’ve had so many injuries it’s tough to get complacent, because we’ve had so many new guys in,” head coach Adam Shackleford said.
The Barnstormers opened the season with three straight wins and climbed to No. 4 in the rankings, but they’ve dropped their last two games. Iowa committed six turnovers and fell to Tulsa 58-31 and followed that with four more turnovers in a 33-29 loss to Quad City. The Barnstormers led 29-28, but Quad City made a field goal with 2 seconds left and added a safety on the ensuing kickoff.
“(Iowa) Coach (John) Gregory was on my radio show (earlier this week) and he felt they should have won, which means they’re going to come in with a chip on their shoulder,” Shackleford said.
The loss to Tulsa was especially painful for Gregory, well-known in arena football circles after coaching Kurt Warner and Iowa to consecutive Arena Bowl appearances in 1996-97. Gregory suffered a broken leg and a torn knee ligament when he was crushed against the dasherboards after three Tulsa defenders sacked Iowa quarterback Brian Villanueva.
Gregory has been confined to a wheelchair and he coached from behind the dasherboards last week.
“I think I might have been more effective on the field, but we didn’t lose because of that,” Gregory told the Des Moines Register.
The Barnstormers lost because they’ve had 10 of their 15 turnovers in the last two games. In the first three games, Iowa averaged 62 points. Villanueva didn’t have an interception in the first two games, but he’s tossed seven in the last three.
“They’ve been streaky on offense,” Shackleford said. “Sometimes you think they’re unstoppable, other times they make mistakes.”
Spokane’s offense has increased its point total every game – from 59 to 62, 63 and 71. Quarterback Nick Davila has 28 touchdown passes with just one interception. He ranks third in pass efficiency at 129.3.
One matchup to watch: Spokane leads af2 in red-zone efficiency, scoring on 16 of 17 possessions. Iowa is tied for first in red-zone defense (14 of 24).
Spokane will probably go with Olson, Dillon, Raul Vijil and Patrick Bugg at receiver. Markee White, who caught 12 passes a week ago, likely won’t suit up. … Hercules Satele replaces Belcher on the offensive line. … Gregory was the head coach at Arkansas when the Twisters lost to Spokane in the National Conference title game in 2006. Spokane beat Green Bay the next week to win the ArenaCup in its inaugural season. … Less than 700 tickets remained as of 4 p.m. Friday. Spokane has 21 consecutive sellouts.
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