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Spokane Shock

Empire throw five interceptions as Sioux Falls cruises 59-35

Spokane’s Pasquale Vacchio puts a clothesline stop on the Sioux Falls’ Caleb Holley in a 59-35 loss on Saturday, June 18, 2016 at the Spokane Arena. No penalty was called on the play. (JESSE TINSLEY
Jim Meehan

Sioux Falls has dominated the Indoor Football League for the last five seasons and doesn’t show any signs of slowing down.

The five-time defending champion Storm duplicated their winning formula from the first meeting in May, relying on a strong running game and five interceptions to throttle Spokane 59-35 on Saturday at the Arena. Sioux Falls handled the Empire 63-50 last month.

Spokane (12-3) suffered its first home loss of the season and its injury list continued to grow. Leading receiver Carl Sims is likely out for the season with a broken wrist. Defensive tackle D.J. Yendrey exited in the first half with a foot injury.

Sioux Falls (15-1) has won 11 in a row. Spokane encountered many of the same issues from the May 14 setback in South Dakota.

Rolandan Finch ran for four touchdowns and quarterback Lorenzo Brown added two rushing TDs and one through the air. Sioux Falls, which leads the IFL in rushing yards by nearly 30 per game, gained 92 ground yards.

Spokane quarterback Charles Dowdell threw four interceptions for the second time against Sioux Falls. Reserve Aaron Aiken entered late in the fourth quarter and promptly threw an interception.

“They’re a pretty well coached defense and they have athletes all over the field,” Dowdell said. “They’re five-time champions for a reason. When you play a team like that you can’t turn it over and we have to capitalize on the (stops) our defense had.”

Sioux Falls built 24-21 halftime lead primarily on the strength of two interceptions by J’Vontez Blackmon and one by Matt Hermanson. Two of the picks came after Spokane’s defense had registered stops.

Defensive back Adrian James intercepted Brown to give the Empire possession at their 13-yard line. Blackmon easily picked off Dowdell on the ensuing play. The Empire defense stiffened but Justin Syrovatka’s 30-yard field goal on the last play of the half gave the Storm a three-point advantage.

Sioux Falls hiked its lead to 37-21 midway through the third quarter. Finch cruised in from the 2 and Caleb Holley made a terrific diving catch on a long pass, popped up and fell into the end zone. Spokane’s Pat Clarke missed a 21-yard field goal between the Storm’s scores.

“We traded punches a little bit in the first half,” Empire coach Adam Shackleford said. “They were the better team tonight. We just kind of came out flat in the second half. I thought we’d come out and respond and we didn’t. That was disappointing.”

Spokane pulled within 37-29 on Justin Helwege’s touchdown reception and a successful two-point conversion but the Storm answered with touchdown runs by Finch and Brown to extend their lead to 49-29.

“He (Brown) is definitely a scrambler,” Spokane defensive lineman Brett Bowers said. “We got away from keeping him bottled up and he made some big plays down the field. He’s good on his feet.”

Sioux Falls sealed it on Elijah Fields’ interception and 41-yard touchdown return with 3:12 remaining. Helwege and Empire lineman Mike Trice were shaken up on the play.

Dowdell finished 22 of 34 for 166 yards and four touchdowns. He had a team-high 33 rushing yards.

“We just have to be willing to take what they’re giving us,” Shackleford said. “We talked all week about the flats being open. Charles is just putting too much pressure on himself to make big plays. We’re trying to get him to stay in the system and do what he’s done so well all season.”

Finch rushed for 63 yards. Brown added 30, moving him to 724 on the season and passing Spokane’s Trevor Kennedy (720) for the league lead. Kennedy suffered a broken leg two weeks ago.