Spokane Shock Suffer Franchise Worst Loss to the San Jose SaberCats
by Alex Gustafson
Three championships were amassed by the Spokane Shock in their first five years of existence. It’s now been five years since their last ArenaBowl, not even appearing in the game since their win in 2010. The drought is real. The frustration is mounting. And in this, the tenth anniversary season for the Shock, everyone’s hand is hovering over the panic button, ready to hit it at any time now.
Spokane was 2-4 entering into their contest against the undefeated San Jose SaberCats on Saturday afternoon. Though San Jose was the favorite, nobody saw this result coming. This one was mathematically over before halftime. It was also hell to watch as a fan in the second half. The SaberCats absolutely dominated the Shock from the word Go. The final score of 83-28 is the worst loss in franchise history. Last week, I wondered how Spokane would turn out to see this huge make or break matchup. Attendance dropped again, and the Shock broke.
All sorts of excuses could be made. We could point fingers at all sorts of things from the early start time, to how the referees missed some major calls. But at the end of the day, there is zero excuse for a 45 point beat down at home. The die hards stuck around to the very bitter end, but the negative emotions that all fans shared exiting the arena could not be ignored.
A couple of SaberCats came back to the place they called home for close to a half decade each. Quarterback Eric Meyer and receiver Adron Tennell are new to San Jose this year, but only Tennell saw the field as Meyer rested from previous injuries. Nathan Stanley got the start behind center and lit up the scoreboard with eight touchdowns off of 212 yards. To make matters worse, the Shock had the ball for 53 plays while San Jose only ran 34, and the game was still a rout of epic proportions.
“The entire game from start to finish couldn’t have been played worse. We played about as bad a game Spokane has ever seen” said Head Coach Andy Olson. Being brutally honest, he admitted that as the man in charge, all has been said and done and the team still can’t find its winning edge. “We’ve had multiple heart to heart talks. After Portland. After New Orleans. We’ve already done this. I’ve said what I needed to say. I wear my heart on my sleeve. I’m not happy. We aren’t living up to what the Spokane Shock stand for.” When asked when there were any positives at all on the night, he only answered “No.”
Warren Smith had an impressive debut as Spokane’s QB against the L.A. KISS last week, but his stats took a dive this week. He accounted for all four touchdowns in the air, but also gave up four picks and was sacked three times for 15 yards total. Smith spoke about the turnaround saying “As a quarterback in the AFL, I need to play at a higher level. Give credit to that (San Jose) D line. Best D line in the league.” Smith as the new leader in the locker room is willing to move on and get the team back gelling together. “We can’t worry about what the media is saying, who we’re playing or what their record is. All we can do is keep working on ourselves. We need to get better as a team.”
San Jose was one of two undefeated teams coming into Week 8, sharing that distinction with the Philadelphia Soul. While Philly fell courtesy of the Jacksonville Sharks, the exact opposite was taking place as San Jose had zero problems with Spokane. It felt like the Shock were prey that was maimed, and then played around with before its official demise. This game was easily the hardest to sit through as the Cats kept piling on score after score.
And in Arena Football, unbelievable plays happen. It’s a given. But one play in particular blew my mind. In the second quarter from their own 1 yard line, Smith threw a short pass to Rashaad Carter connecting at the 5. Carter got clobbered immediately after the catch by David Hyland, popping the ball airborne for ELEVEN YARDS into the arms of a diving Ken Fontenette. He would return the ball 16 yards for the pick six.
Wow. Just… Wow.
Adding injury to the insult, Mike Washington went down hurt late in the game. With Spokane’s leading receiver in jeopardy now, Smith and company have a week to adjust in case “The Joystick” can’t go next Saturday on the road against Las Vegas. No official update has been given on his condition as of press time, but on Washington’s official Twitter account, he tweeted a few hours after the game: “Down but not out. Coming back stronger than before. Thank you all for the positive vibes. #teamjoystick”
The Shock defense had zero interceptions, zero forced fumbles, and zero scores. The best individual effort of the night on that side of the ball for Spokane belonged to Derrick Summers who accounted for five tackles. “There was no heart. I’m at a loss for words.” After some thought, he shared the sentiment that this was the worst loss anyone on the team has been a part of. But he is still optimistic of all the games still on the slate for the year. “We just gotta keep working. That’s all we can do. Adjust and move on.”
This hurt. For Spokane, this was supposed to be a great season. Failure wasn’t considered as an option. For a franchise that has only missed the playoffs twice in nine years, the measuring stick is pretty high up here in the Pacific Northwest. Instead, the Shock are hurting themselves at every hurdle that comes in their way instead of jumping over it and moving on. The next game versus the Las Vegas Outlaws is a wild card. And I’d like to apologize to Shock fans right now. If reading this article hurt, imagine being the fan writing it.
Spokane travels to Las Vegas to meet the Outlaws for the first time ever while the 8-0SaberCats go home to host the Cleveland Gladiators. Both games are on May 23with 5pm est and 10:30pm est kicks respectively. As usual, all games can be seen online on ESPN 3 and the WatchESPN app.