The Spokane Shock and Arizona Ratters have a long history within the confines of arena football.
The two have faced off 22 times , with the Rattlers (10-2) holding a 14-8 edge .
This season, the Rattlers handed Spokane (6-5) its worst loss of the season on June 25 in Phoenix by a 56-35 score.
That was also the last time starting quarterback Charles McCullum stepped on the turf after he was sacked late in the first half.
Spokane and Arizona continue their rivalry at 7:05 p.m. Friday in the Arena.
Here are five things to watch:
Tale of two seasons
Spokane had won four straight going into the first matchup against Arizona, but counting that setback, the Shock have dropped four of their past six games.
The Rattlers have won nine of their past 10 games.
A lot of Spokane’s issues can be chalked up to injuries, but a lack of cohesion on both sides of the ball has led to silly mistakes and costly miscues.
Last week, the Shock had 10 penalties for 84 yards and lost three turnovers, all interceptions.
The Shock, the league’s former No. 1 defense, are giving up a full 10 points more per game than when the teams last met.
As Spokane works to get healthier on both sides of the ball, it aims to recapture its early-season success and chemistry.
Arizona’s dangerous offense
While Spokane has lost its top defensive spot since June 25, Arizona has kept its top offense title.
The Rattlers have increased their scoring output by six points per game.
Arizona’s Drew Powell, the dual-threat quarterback, is the ringleader and has put together one of the more impressive rushing seasons by a quarterback in Indoor Football League history.
The 6-foot-3, 220-pound force went to Livingstone College in Salisbury, North Carolina, where he set 11 school records. He went on to play for the Saskatchewan Roughriders of the Canadian Football League and the Iowa Barnstormers of the IFL.
Powell led the IFL in rushing yards in 2018 and guided the Barnstormers to the IFL title.
Darrell Monroe and Nick LaSane complement Powell in the backfield.
While Powell does most of his damage with his legs, he also is third in the league in passing touchdowns (26), finding Jarrod Harrington (10 TD receptions) and Jamal Miles (six) most often.
Spokane’s sloppy play
In the past two weeks, Spokane has 17 penalties and nine turnovers.
Head coach Billy Back must address the disconnected play on the field. The Shock have to reverse the trend if they want to find themselves back in the win column.
It all starts up front with penalties before the snap killing drives. Then it falls on whoever lines up under center.
Will it be Marcus McDade, who has six interceptions in the past two weeks, or Blake Sims, who threw none in two weeks?
Either way, Spokane needs to clean up its act to win and host a playoff game.
Spokane has had three quarterbacks start this season.
McCullum started the first six games before his ankle injury sidelined him. Next up was Sims, who lasted three weeks before an ankle injury forced him to boot up.
Now it has been McDade, who has filled in the past two starts, both losses.
For Arizona, Powell has been the guy all season and for good reason. He is the Rattlers’ best player.
But behind him on the bench is Vincent Testaverde Jr., son of Vinny Testaverde, former Miami Hurricane star and 21-year NFL veteran.
Testaverde finished his NFL career in the top 10 for career passing yards.
Testaverde Jr. hasn’t thrown a pass for Arizona this season, but he has more star power linked to his name than most in the IFL.
Who steps up for Shock?
The Shock have been severely missing the big-play abilities from their quarterback and halfback positions.
Since Davonte Sapp-Lynch has been out of commission, most of the offensive pressure was centered on newly signed McDade.
McDade has felt the full weight to produce and has forced the ball into windows that are too tight.
There is a chance Sapp-Lynch returns, and possibly Sims, but even that doesn’t solve the problems immediately.
Back and Spokane will be looking for their stars to carry them into the playoffs with timely and clean football.
The eight-team playoff bracket will play out over three weeks, starting Aug. 27 and culminating with the United Bowl two weeks later.
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