And then there was one.
Top-ranked Spokane pulled away from Iowa 49-30 on Saturday at the Arena to emerge from the weekend as the only unbeaten team left in arenafootball2. It’s familiar territory for the Shock, who won their first 11 games in 2008 before falling to South Georgia.
Spokane improved to 5-0 with the hard-earned victory in front of 10,286, which snapped a streak of 21 consecutive home sellouts. Oklahoma City dropped from the unbeaten ranks when it lost to Rio Grande Valley 74-73 on Friday.
Iowa (3-3), which led twice in the first half, dropped its third straight game.
“I don’t care” about being undefeated, Shock quarterback Nick Davila said. “We were unbeaten for a long way last year. All that matters is that you win at the end.”
Spokane didn’t win this one at the end, but it did get pushed deep into the second half by the Barnstormers.
The Shock, leading 28-24, scored on their first possession of the third quarter to move on top 35-24. The defense forced its second turnover of the game as Sergio Gilliam picked off a Brian Villanueva pass after the Barnstormers quarterback was flushed out of the pocket by Ben McCombs.
But Spokane’s offense didn’t capitalize and Iowa scored to close the gap to 35-30 late in the third quarter. A well-executed pooch kick gave the Barnstormers the ball back, but Spokane forced three straight incomplete passes and Jeff Glas’ 30-yard field goal attempt was ruled wide left – to the protests of the Barnstormers.
“There was no missed field goal,” Iowa coach John Gregory said. “The field goal was good.”
Spokane pulled away on Harrison Nikolao’s 1-yard touchdown run and Davila’s 26-yard touchdown pass to Andy Olson.
Spokane’s defense gave up just one second-half touchdown. Iowa gained only 68 yards on 24 second-half plays. Iowa receivers found some openings in the first half, but Spokane tightened its coverage in the final two quarters and the pass rush generated steady pressure.
Villanueva was 8 of 23 in the second half.
“(Iowa receiver) Tim Dodge has played in this league forever,” Shock coach Adam Shackleford said. “He’s been a thorn in my side and he kind of worked (defensive back) Stanley (Franks) early with his veteran moves. But Stanley got into a groove in the second half and did a great job shutting him down.”
Davila finished 28 of 35 for 320 yards and six touchdowns. Five of those scoring strikes went to Olson and Charles Dillon. Olson, sidelined the last two weeks with a sprained knee ligament, and Dillon, who missed the last six quarters with a rib injury, combined for 19 receptions. Raul Vijil had eight catches for 105 yards.
“We had a couple of turnovers we normally don’t make,” said Dillon, though one of the turnovers was erased by an Iowa penalty. “But we had our first close game and we were able to overcome adversity and get the victory. Our guys knew what we needed to do.”
The first half was played on fairly even terms. Both teams had one turnover and both scored on four of six possessions. The lone difference was Spokane tallied four touchdowns while Iowa had three TDs and Glas made a 35-yard field goal.
Spokane took the lead 21-17 midway through the second quarter on Dillon’s second touchdown catch and a Davila-to-Olson connection made it 28-17.
Villanueva scored from 1 yard out to trim Spokane’s lead to 28-24. The Shock drove from their 9-yard line to the Iowa 4 with 4.5 seconds left. Shackleford elected to go for the touchdown, but Olson had to retreat a step to catch the pass and was hauled down at the 1 as time expired.
Spokane entertains Boise (4-1) on Saturday.
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