Perhaps the most tradition-rich indoor football franchise since its 1992 inception, the Arizona Rattlers host a reborn Spokane Shock team chasing the same long-term success.
The Shock appeared to be heading in that direction when they won af2 titles in their inaugural (2006) and third years (2009) before bumping up to the Arena Football League in 2010 and winning the Arena Cup in their initial AFL season, beating the Rattlers three times in the process.
But the Shock changed brands in 2016 to the Spokane Empire when they switched from the AFL to the Indoor Football League.
The Empire ceased operations in 2017.
The Rattlers made the switch from the AFL to the IFL in 2017, two years before the AFL disbanded after more than 30 years of existence.
After developing a healthy rivalry with second-ranked Arizona (4-1) in its previous era, the No. 3 Shock (4-1) – with a new owner in ex-Seattle Seahawk Sam Adams and head coach Billy Back – face the Rattlers at 7 p.m. Friday at Phoenix Suns Arena.
Here are five things to watch in this week’s marquee IFL game.
Shock defense vs. Rattlers offense: The run-heavy Rattlers own the IFL’s highest-scoring offense (46.6 points per game), presenting a big test for Spokane’s top-ranked defense (31 ppg).
Arizona leads the IFL in rushing yards (128.6 ypg), while the Shock give up just 54 yards per game.
Shock safety Mike Green ranks second in the IFL in tackles (42).
Petre’s return: Sawyer Petre’s 28-yard field goal lifted the Arizona Rattlers to a win over the Sioux Falls Storm in the 2017 United Bowl, the IFL’s championship game.
Petre, one of the league’s top kickers in his three professional seasons since coming out of NCAA Division III University of Puget Sound, is now a member of the Shock and leads the league in field-goal percentage (67%, 8 for 12).
If this game goes down to the wire, Petre’s foot may be called to put a sting into his former team.
Guy vs. Back: Kevin Guy has long established himself as arguably the best coach in indoor football, helping the Rattlers win four AFL titles and one IFL title.
Back is of the up-and-coming variety, helping the Carolina Cobras win a National League title in 2018 and runner-up finish in 2019 before accepting the same job in Spokane.
Back, who was also the IFL Coach of the Year in 2016 with the Wichita Falls Nighthawks, will again test his mettle against Guy with a Shock team riding a four-game winning streak.
Look out for Powell: The Rattlers’ offense is paced by the league’s leading rusher (328 yards) in dual-threat quarterback Drew Powell, who has also passed for 700 yards in five games this season.
Powell, who played briefly in the Canadian Football League, was the 2018 IFL MVP when he played for the Iowa Barnstormers.
Home-court advantage?: Phoenix Suns Arena provided an electric atmosphere on Tuesday when the Suns hosted the Los Angeles Clippers in the NBA’s Western Conference Finals.
Now there’s a slab of turf inside the venue for the Rattlers’ home game with the Shock, which may provide a wild atmosphere since it’s allowing full capacity.
The Spokane Arena offered limited capacity last week, splitting sections into vaccinated and nonvaccinated.
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