A sweep of the Indoor Football League’s preeminent franchise would help assert the rebirth of the Spokane Shock.
But the defending IFL champion Sioux Falls Storm – winners of seven United Bowls in the past 11 seasons – are often a hard club to beat twice.
The second-ranked Shock (4-2) dispatched the No. 5 Storm (4-3) 50-32 June 12 in South Dakota and are looking to repeat the feat on Saturday at the Spokane Arena.
“It’s our Super Bowl,” Shock coach Billy Back said of facing the Storm, a team that is also coming off a bye week.
Here are five things to watch from a matchup that the league has billed as the IFL Game of the Week.
McCullum or Sims?: Shock veteran quarterback Charlie McCullum went down with an ankle injury just before halftime in an 56-35 road loss to the top-ranked Arizona Rattlers two weeks ago in Phoenix, an ailment that shifted the course of the marquee IFL game.
It’s unclear if McCullum, who is 185 yards shy of the IFL all-time career passing record, will return for a rematch with the Storm, a team he shredded for 239 total yards and five touchdowns .
If not, the Shock will look to former Alabama quarterback Blake Sims, who hasn’t taken a snap in indoor football.
Sims, who passed for more than 3,000 yards as a senior for the Crimson Tide in 2014, had recently been battling a hamstring injury.
Rudd makes Shock debut: The last time receiver Keyvan Rudd was in Spokane, it was three weeks ago as a member of the Northern Arizona Wranglers.
Rudd, who ranks No. 2 in the IFL in receiving yards (366 yards, six touchdowns), signed with the Shock last week.
Rudd boosts a dangerous Shock receiver foursome that includes Kamrin Solomon, Troy Evans Jr. and Jordan Jolly, forming arguably the best group of pass catchers in the IFL.
Full capacity again: For the first time since the franchise’s rebirth, the Shock will play in front of full capacity at the Arena.
The Shock’s opener against the Frisco Fighters in May had no fans. Three weeks ago against the Wranglers, the Arena allowed limited capacity and sections were split into vaccinated and unvaccinated.
In their previous era, the Shock had established themselves as having one of the most loyal, sizable and rowdiest followings in indoor football.
Will the thunderous “Deaf Valley” return? Will “The Ninth Man” and “Goal-Line Bandits” be back to their wild ways, a la 2010 when they were atop the Arena Football League? Time will tell.
A battle of No. 2s: The Storm feature the IFL’s second-ranked scoring offense – paced by former Nebraska Cornhuskers quarterback Tommy Armstrong and running back Nate Chavious – is averaging 47.1 points per game.
The tandem has combined for roughly 500 yards on the ground with 19 rushing touchdowns.
The Shock have the league’s second-ranked scoring defense (35 ppg) and have forced 12 turnovers.
Boost up front: Since its previous meeting with the Storm, Spokane made some big additions up front with former University of Florida defensive end Adam Shuler and former Iowa State defensive tackle Kamilo Tongamoa.
The Shock surrendered 188 rushing yards and six rushing touchdowns in their recent loss to Arizona, so Shuler and Tongamoa may make their debuts in timely fashion.
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