Milwaukee gave Spokane a rough introduction to the Arena Football League in early April, but the Shock didn’t stay down for long.
After falling to the visiting Iron 74-62, Spokane has won eight of nine games – the lone loss coming on a last-second kick return by Cleveland – to fashion the AFL’s best record. Sixth-ranked Milwaukee (7-4), which has lost three of its last five, dropped into second place in the Midwest Division after falling to Chicago (8-3) last week.
The rematch comes Saturday night at the Bradley Center and both teams have numerous new faces. Both have made changes to their offensive line and secondary. In fact, Al Phillips, who started for Spokane back in April, is expected to suit up for the Iron.
“We were very aware of the things written about us after the first game, ‘Oh, does Keefe have it?’ It kind of makes me chuckle now,” first-year Spokane coach Rob Keefe said. “This will be a good indication of where we’re at.”
The top-ranked Shock (8-2) lead the West Division by a game over Arizona, which visits Spokane next week. Four of seven National Conference teams qualify for the playoffs and Spokane, Arizona, Chicago and Milwaukee have separated themselves from the pack.
Spokane is in position to host throughout the playoffs if it continues its winning ways.
“One game here, one game there and you could move from first to fourth that quick,” receiver Raul Vijil said. “We’re a completely different team and so are they. I like the way we’re playing at this point.”
Veteran quarterback Chris Greisen tossed nine touchdown passes in the first meeting. His quick release and short drops prevented Spokane from mounting a pass rush. Damian Harrell is the AFL’s all-time leader in receptions and touchdowns. Nate Forse is third in the league with 101 catches and Tiger Jones is tied for fourth with Vijil in touchdown receptions (31).
“They had a good scheme,” defensive end Ben McCombs said. “We’re going to approach it with a little different game plan.”
Spokane’s defensive playbook has expanded since the first contest, Keefe said. “There were times where I wanted to call certain plays and we didn’t have them in. We probably have 30 more plays in than we did in that first game.”
Rob McMackin, activated from injured-reserve earlier this week, is expected to start at center. Receiver Emery Sammons likely will make his first start. … Keefe said the key to getting a pass rush is quality coverage in the secondary. “Milwaukee likes to stretch the field deep,” he said. “We’re not going to let them do it. We’re going to keep everything in front of us.” … Milwaukee is 6-0 at home.
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