ESTERO, Fla. – When you’re playing the best team in af2, it doesn’t help to fumble away the opening kickoff. Or turn the ball over two more times. Or play loose with the Spokane Shock receivers.
The Florida Firecats did all those things, however, Saturday night and the result was a harder-than-it-should-have-been 49-38 win for the undefeated Shock at Germain Arena.
The Shock (7-0) took advantage of James Panui’s fumble on the 10-yard line to open the game. Andy Olson took a handoff from quarterback Nick Davila and ran it in from 8 yards out. It was Olson’s only carry, but not his only contribution.
The receiver also had 11 catches for 151 yards and a touchdown as the Firecats (3-4) decided to lay off Spokane’s wideouts.
“They really played a lot of soft man coverage and that gave us an opportunity to give Andy the ball,” Shock coach Adam Shackleford said.
Davila, who was 24 of 33 for 281 yards, also found Raul Vijil (eight catches, 62 yards) for a score, Charles Dillon (five catches for 68 yards) for two more and ran for another.
“You can’t keep an eye on all three of them in this game,” Shackleford said of his receiving corps. “At some point one of them will be open.”
The Firecats may have lost the Spokane receivers, but the Shock did the same with the ball, turning it over a season-high four times, including three fumbles.
“Four turnovers, that just makes me sick,” Shackleford said.
The turnovers allowed Florida, which trailed 35-18 late in the third quarter, to get back in the game. Quarterback Chris Wallace, af2’s all-time touchdown-pass leader, found Magic Benton for three consecutive scores, cutting the lead to 35-32 with 8 minutes left.
But, after Spokane stretched the lead to 10 on Vijil’s score, Lee Foliaki tipped a Wallace pass and Kevin McCullough caught it for his third interception of the year.
“Lee made a good play on the ball and Kevin always seems to be in the right spot,” Shackleford said.
Davila iced the game with his 1-yard scoring run.
Stanley Franks, who had one of the fumbles, led the Shock with 11 unassisted tackles.
The Shock will fly home today – “I’ll take a flight over a long bus trip home anytime, especially after a win,” Shackleford said – and will face 3-4 Central Valley on Saturday at the Arena.
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