Quarterback Arvell Nelson didn’t like the Spokane Shock players’ demeanor when they lined up against Cleveland last Saturday.
“I felt like we came out with the mentality that we’re already in the playoffs,” he said. “Can’t do that.”
Technically, Spokane is in the playoffs, but Nelson explained that the team wasn’t focused on the Gladiators and paid for it with a 17-point loss. Spokane gets another shot today when it closes the regular season against Las Vegas at the Thomas & Mack Center.
A victory assures Spokane (6-11) of the third seed in the National Conference and a first-round playoff date against Arizona in Phoenix. Las Vegas (5-11-1), which has been under league control for a month because of ownership issues, is in contention for a playoff berth.
Both teams have had a revolving door at quarterback. Nelson has started the last three games, taking over from Warren Smith, who replaced Carson Coffman.
“Coach had us write down three goals this week,” said Nelson, who committed four turnovers against Cleveland. “My main goals were not to turn the ball over and score on every possession.”
Four different quarterbacks have seen time for Las Vegas, including Dennis Havrilla, who was briefly with Spokane last season, and J.J. Raterink, who was in training camp with Spokane in its inaugural season in 2006.
Raterink is expected to start. Havrilla was released earlier this week. The Outlaws, similar to Spokane, have struggled offensively no matter who lines up at quarterback. They’re averaging just 41.5 points, 10th in the league, and haven’t reached 50 points since a 62-56 win at Spokane on June 12.
Spokane won the first meeting 63-56 in May, despite allowing 35 fourth-quarter points.
“They’re a solid team with a ton of vets, but they’re banged up as well,” Shock coach Andy Olson said. “J.J. is back so I expect they’ll be a little more efficient.”
Las Vegas has dropped three straight.