Feels a little like the old days.
Spokane and Arizona were rivals in the Arena Football League from 2010-2015. Spokane left for the Indoor Football League with the Rattlers making the move after the 2016 season.
They’ve flipped roles in the IFL. The Empire sit atop the Intense Conference at 7-3. Arizona, which had the upper hand against Spokane in the AFL, is second at 6-4.
And just like many of their past games, there’s a lot on the line in Friday’s meeting at the Arena. Spokane can add to its one-game lead and clinch the three-game season series. The tiebreaker could become important for hosting rights in the playoffs.
“I don’t really talk to my players about that stuff, but as coaches we’ve broken it down a little that winning the tiebreaker with Arizona would be huge for us,” said coach Adam Shackleford, whose Empire beat the Rattlers 60-51 last month in Phoenix.
Third-place Nebraska (6-5) owns a win and the tiebreaker over Spokane, but the Danger’s remaining schedule includes road games against Arizona and six-time defending champion Sioux Falls (9-1) and a visit from Wichita Falls (8-2).
Shackleford isn’t surprised Arizona is in the mix for one of the two Intense Conference playoffs spots in its initial IFL season. Coach Kevin Guy led Arizona to three AFL titles and two runner-up finishes from 2011-2016. Former Shock and Rattlers quarterback Nick Davila is Arizona’s quarterbacks coach.
Arizona has a few AFL holdovers on its roster, including defensive back Arkeith Brown and receiver Anthony Amos, a standout for the Shock in 2015.
“Athlete for athlete, they’re maybe the best team we play all year,” Shackleford said. “They’re a team that each week on film they get a little better at this and better at that. Coach Guy has grasped the concepts of what you need to do to win in the IFL.”
Local journalism is essential.
Give directly to The Spokesman-Review's Northwest Passages community forums series -- which helps to offset the costs of several reporter and editor positions at the newspaper -- by using the easy options below. Gifts processed in this system are not tax deductible, but are predominately used to help meet the local financial requirements needed to receive national matching-grant funds.
Subscribe to the sports newsletter
Get the day’s top sports headlines and breaking news delivered to your inbox by subscribing here.