LAS VEGAS – The Spokane Shock broke open a tight game with a 16-point flurry late in the first half and went on to a 51-34 Arena Football League victory over the Las Vegas Outlaws on Saturday night at the Thomas & Mack Center.
Spokane (7-11), which has won three of its last four, clinched the third seed and will visit No. 2 Arizona on Saturday in the first round of the National Conference playoffs. The Rattlers (14-4) won two of three meetings during the regular season.
Tied at 14 with just less than 1 minute left in the second quarter, the Shock failed to convert from Las Vegas’ 3-yard line and it appeared they’d trail at halftime. But the defense forced three straight incomplete passes before James Ruffin sacked quarterback Sean Brackett in the end zone for a safety.
Jabin Sambrano, the former University of Montana receiver who joined the Shock in late May, took a short pass from Arvell Nelson and raced 35 yards for a touchdown. Taylor Rowan’s ensuing kickoff bounced away from the Outlaws’ return man and Kevin McCullough recovered for a touchdown.
The Shock scored 16 points in about 25 seconds to take a 30-14 lead at the break.
Spokane boosted its lead to 37-14 early in the third quarter when Sambrano broke free again after a short reception for a 39-yard scoring play.
It wasn’t over. Las Vegas (5-12-1) scored the next two touchdowns and had a chance at another, but Ruschard Dodd-Masters picked off Brackett’s pass in the end zone.
Bryson Kelly and Nelson each had 1-yard TD runs in the fourth quarter to keep the Shock comfortably ahead.
Spokane’s front four put steady pressure on Brackett, who was under duress for most of the last three quarters. He was just 15 of 36 for 204 yards.
Sambrano finished with eight catches for a season-high 126 yards and three touchdowns. Nelson passed for 233 yards and four touchdowns.