4th and Ouch: The LA KISS Landslide Continues
By Alex Gustafson
People have been talking about Los Angeles football to come back for years. It’s sad to report that the incarnation that the City of Angels received was in the form of the 2015 L.A. KISS. What is there left to say? We can make terrible rock star puns, stare in awe of the front office dumpster fire, and shiver at the fact that the young franchise only has three wins to its name. Not this season, but last. One can also look at the KISS and look at history.
In 2003, the Arena Football League looked almost completely different. Back then, not only was Los Angeles’ arena team known as the Avengers, the Carolina Cobras became the only AFL team in the history of the league to go 0-16. The KISS have now been handed their seventh loss of the season, close to being halfway there. Not saying that L.A. will be the seventh team to go an entire AFL season without one in the win column, but after their defeat at the hands of the Spokane Shock on Friday night, they are one step closer to doing so.
After a heartbreaker of a loss of their own at New Orleans in Week 6, Spokane came back home to host Los Angeles for the first time ever. Coming in with only one win on the season, the Shock needed to get an extra boost to stay alive as the season draws near the halfway mark. Quarterback Warren Smith got the nod over Carson Coffman for this contest, and made his debut a worthy one. His first arena start went 23-29 with 313 yards in the air and seven touchdowns including one rushing score.
“I just wanted to come out and get a win and look sharp. We had a great game” said Smith who won the Offensive Player of the Game award. “We did a great job on all sides, offensive, defensive, and special teams. We only let up 46 tonight. It was great.” On top of a Shock debut, there was a return in Linebacker Micah King. After two years in San Antonio, King returned to Spokane as the Shock faithful welcomed him back with open arms. “It felt be way better to be playing for (Spokane) than against them” said King who’s comeback was highlighted by a fumble recovery in the second quarter. His play showed there wasn’t a big hitch for him getting back into the AFL after an extended break. “I’ve been training. There’s nothing like getting in football shape. This is a great thing for me.”
The Shock special teams had a great outing with Sergio Gilliam scoring on Spokane’s first return attempt of the night and Nick Truesdell recovering a botched KISS return for a touchdown of his own. And to make matters more interesting, both scores happened in the first quarter. Defensive Back coach Will “Shoulder” Mulder was exceptionally pleased. “We told these guys stick to the plan, you stick together, and you’re in a situation to make plays if not make every play. I’m really proud of that never die attitude.”
For Los Angeles, they conclude their three week road trip in Portland to visit the Thunder. This is an interesting matchup, because two of their three wins last year were against Portland. The only thing is that both those wins came in Anaheim. The KISS’ trips to the Moda Center this year and last have resulted in losses. This is the 13th(!) consecutive loss when counting last year’s season ending skid. This wound is opening wider and wider every week and here comes some salt to pour in it: Matt Bassuener broke his hand in the fourth quarter. Three of their four quarterbacks they’ve played this year are injured.
Something has to eventually go right for these guys, right? Donovan Morgan’s star is shining pretty bright, but having a new quarterback every two games will get tiresome for his chemistry. The team is lacking… well… just that. Team. The ball may be spread around and can click for some drives, but when it rains, it pours. It’s either a huge touchdown, or a lost fumble for that offense. When the notorious Goal Line Bandits are missing three guys, and they still get in your head, there’s a problem.
A great opportunity presented itself on Saturday, and one of the teams was destined to lose and blow that very opportunity. Again, it happened to be the KISS. Spokane is walking wounded this first half of the season, and L.A. still couldn’t buy a win like Gene Simmons buys licenses for KISS memorabilia. What’s funnier is that the smallest market team beat the biggest in terms of potential money making for the league right now. If we could make another analogy for the way the team is going, Paul and Gene are to the L.A. KISS what Ted Turner was to WCW. Big money superstar owner, but with so many other ventures of theirs going on, the inmates that really run that asylum are starting to make it implode from within.
Not a whole lot of celebration or rest will be had for Spokane though. San Jose is dominating the league, and Spokane’s contest versus the SaberCats is looming in Week 8. This will be a homecoming for Adron Tennell and Eric Meyer who played four and five years respectively in Spokane. However with the injury Meyer sustained in Week 6 against Arizona, the likely man under center for San Jose will be Nathan Stanley. And though the Shock has the benefit of home field advantage, attendance in the Spokane Arena Friday night dropped under 8,000 for the first time in franchise history. To go a decade with nine or ten-thousand plus as the normal crowd is an absolute blessing for Arena ball, so this will be interesting to see how Spokane turns out next week against one of the top teams in the league after a big win.
Both matchups of San Jose vs Spokane and L.A. vs Portland take place on Saturday, May 16th Spokane kicks off at 7 est and Portland will kick off at 10 est. As always, all AFL games can be seen on ESPN3.com and on the WatchESPN app.