Spokane Shock faces unfamiliar foe on familiar turf at Northern Arizona
June 4, 2021 Updated Fri., June 4, 2021 at 11:23 p.m.
The Spokane Shock enjoyed several wins on Northern Arizona’s home turf, but they’ve never met the Wranglers.
Northern Arizona, an Indoor Football League franchise that began in 2020, purchased the Shock’s old turf, shipped from Spokane to the small, lively Arizona town of Prescott Valley, according to Shock coach Billy Back.
When the Shock (1-1) face the Wranglers (0-2) on Saturday at the Findlay Toyota Center, they’re hoping for another triumph on their former, repurposed slab of synthetic grass.
Ranked last in the 12-team IFL coaches poll, the Wranglers – Arizona’s third IFL team along with the Arizona Rattlers and Tucson Sugar Skulls – have had a rough debut, outscored 112-59 in losses to the Rattlers and Bismarck Bucks.
Averaging just 32½ points a game, the sixth-ranked Shock look to get their slow-starting offense going against a struggling defense (56 points per game).
Shock quarterback Charles McCullum has completed 27 of 52 passes for 228 yards, three touchdowns and four interceptions for an offense that lacks consistency. He also has two rushing touchdowns.
“We have to be more potent and take more shots downfield,” Back said.
The Shock, who’ve been paced by a turnover-forcing defense yielding just 31 points a game, won’t have their primary running back.
Davonte Sapp-Lynch – former Seattle Seahawk Marshawn Lynch’s younger brother – will be absent on Saturday to attend his sister’s wedding. He has a team-high five touchdowns.
Filling in for Lynch in the backfield will be either former Alabama Crimson Tide starting quarterback Blake Sims or former Texas A&M wide receiver Speedy Noil
Northern Arizona’s offense is paced by dual-threat quarterback Caden Walters. The University of Sioux Falls graduate leads the team in passing (245 yards, seven touchdowns) and rushing (101 yards, one touchdown).
Keyvan Rudd, Walters’ favorite target, had nine catches for 129 yards and two touchdowns in a loss to Bismarck.
“They’re athletic,” Back said. “Their linebacker (former Arizona State linebacker Derik) Calhoun is active, Calhoun. They have big-play receivers, they just have to put together like we do. They have a championship coach.”
Wranglers head coach Dominic Bramante is co-founder and former coach of the IFL’s Duke City (Albuquerque, New Mexico) Gladiators, who won back-to-back CIF championships in 2018 and 2019.
Saturday’s 6:05 p.m. game will be streamed on YouTube on the Indoor Football League channel.
Roster additions: Injuries have opened up spots for the Shock, who recently signed former University of Missouri defensive lineman and NFL short-timer Josh Augusta. The Shock also welcomed former University of New Mexico starting quarterback Lamar Jordan and former standout Western Michigan linebacker Ameris Bailey.
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