Cedric Poole appears to hit an extra gear when he faces the Massachusetts Pirates.
The Spokane Shock defensive back had two key interceptions and six tackles in a come-from-behind 34-26 road win against the Pirates last week, an effort that helped him garner Indoor Football League defensive player of the week honors.
When he previously faced the Pirates (3-2) as a member of the Carolina Cobras in 2019, he had three interceptions to earn similar recognition.
Poole, a Birmingham, Alabama native who played collegiately at NCAA Division II Miles College, is one of several players who followed Shock coach Billy Back from Carolina to Spokane, hoping to match the success they had in the National Arena League.
The Cobras won an NAL title in 2018 and reached the championship game in 2019 thanks to a defense that wreaked havoc on many of the league’s top playmakers.
Poole is seeing a similar defense develop in the Lilac City. The Shock are yielding just 29 points a game in the high-scoring IFL.
“We’re big on finishing. We stay as a unit, stay as one group,” said Poole, who has a team-high 13 tackles. “We’re experienced, got each other’s back and going to make plays.”
Poole played three years of small college football before his winding road to indoor football. Back was one of the first coaches to notice Poole after watching a highlight video and subsequently inviting him to tryout in Carolina.
He eventually became the NAL defensive rookie of the year.
“I’m instinctive and a competitor,” Poole said. “I play technical, pay attention to detail, and that’s important in this game.”
The Shock offense has been underwhelming in its first two games, averaging 32 points, roughly half of what the franchise scored in previous campaigns. It is 4 for 13 on third-down conversions.
The Shock (1-1) had just 13 points heading into the fourth quarter last week before its defense came up with three interceptions, including a scoring interception return by Dominick Sanders that helped turn the tide.
“Our defense is playing pretty good right now,” Back said. ” (On offense) we’re overthrowing open receivers, or some receivers are open and missing, but we had a good week of practice this week and look to clean some things up.”
Shock quarterback Charles McCullum has completed 27 of 52 passes for 228 yards, three touchdowns and four interceptions. He also has two rushing touchdowns.
The Shock are on a bye this week and face the Northern Arizona Wranglers (0-2) on the road next Saturday in Prescott, Arizona.
Almost undefeated: In the Shock’s 36-33 loss to the Frisco Fighters in Week 1, Sanders let what would have been a game-sealing interception go through hands late in the fourth quarter before Frisco scored the winning touchdown in the closing seconds.
The former University of Georgia safety redeemed himself on Saturday against the Pirates with a 41-yard interception return that tied the game at 26.
“We’d be 2-0 right now if Sanders caught it (against Frisco),” Back said.
Shock ranked sixth: Spokane checked in at No. 6 in its first appearance of the season in the 12-team IFL coaches poll. Its week 1 opponent, Frisco (2-0) has the top slot. Northern Arizona (0-2), which hosts the Shock on June 5 before playing at the Spokane Arena June 19, is ranked last.
Coug debuts: Former Washington State receiver Kyrin Priester had three catches for a team-high 50 yards receiving and a touchdown last week in his Shock debut before exiting the game with an injury. His former WSU teammate, Tavares Martin Jr., had two catches for 17 yards.
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