The circumstances were different, but the setting was familiar.
Orange-clad fans wearing jerseys from previous Spokane Shock eras made up a spirited contingent on Saturday at the Spokane Arena, which allowed spectators for the first time since the Indoor Football League franchise’s rebirth.
Vuvuzelas were buzzing. Music was blaring. Remnants of the “Deaf Valley,” the “Ninth Man” and the “Goal-Line Bandits” attempted to make life hard for the Northern Arizona Wranglers.
Shock the Fox – the team’s popular mascot – was making children smile. The Shock dance team had also returned to juice up an atmosphere once deemed among the best in the now-defunct Arena Football League.
But with COVID protocols – there were vaccinated and unvaccinated sections – this was an abbreviated version of Shock fandom from its glory years, bringing an estimated crowd of 3,500.
Compared to its fanless season opener in May, though, Saturday’s throng felt like sell-out crowd.
They got their money’s worth.
The second-ranked Shock came alive in the second half to dispatch winless Northern Arizona 63-37 for their fourth straight win.
In a Shock jersey, football pants, orange-and-blue wig and painted face similar to the Ultimate Warrior of pro wrestling fame, the self-described “Shock Warrior” hovered over the west end-zone wall.
The Warrior – which it says on the back of his jersey – had waited years to dust off shoulder pads for this occasion.
“I’ve been out here since 2007,” said the man who declined to give his real name to keep the Warrior mystique alive. “Finally, I’m back for this team. Last summer, when the season got canceled, I got asked to show up to a birthday (dressed in attire), so that held me over until now.”
Shock owner and former Seahawks defensive lineman Sam Adams thought the limited capacity event went off without a hitch.
“It went well. The fans have been hungry for this,” Adams said. “In July, when things open up more, I expect there to be around 5,000 to 8,000 fans in here.”
The Shock came into Saturday’s game with the top-ranked defense, yielding just 28 points a game.
The defense nearly surrendered that average in the first half in the rematch with the Wranglers, who saw starting quarterback Vernon Reed Jr. return to the lineup for the first time since a Week 1 injury.
Two weeks after beating the Wranglers 42-24 in Arizona, the shifty Reed presented a much different look and was aided by one of league’s top receivers, Kevyan Rudd.
The Shock defense took a 27-24 lead into the locker room, thanks to Sawyer Peter’s second field goal that came on the last play before halftime.
But the Shock defense made the necessary adjustments in the second half and Spokane’s budding offense did the rest, posting its best scoring output of the season.
Veteran receiver Jordan Jolly had his best game in a Shock uniform, totaling three touchdowns.
The Shock scored on their first five drives, including a crowd-pleasing collision in which Jolly ran over a defender after catching a short swing pass from Charles McCullum.
Davonte Sapp-Lynch, the brother of Seahawks legend Marshawn Lynch, put the game away with a short touchdown run late in the fourth quarter.
The Shock face the Arizona Rattlers on the road Friday.
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