You Can’t Handle the Truesdell
By Alex Gustafson
It’s good to be back writing for the Spokane Shock. After taking the last month to ensure successful graduation from college, I’m back full throttle in the AFL. But enough about this mere writer. Let’s talk about someone with a great amount of talent on the turf. Going from an unknown player to his coming out party last Sunday, this 6’7” wide out is making his name known amongst the Arena elite of the season. His name is Nick Truesdell.
Last Sunday night, the Shock traveled to Portland to take on the Thunder for the second time this season, both contests taking place in the Moda Center. While the first matchup favored the Oregon faithful, the second contest was quite a different affair. At least in the first half. Warren Smith surrendered the starting spot back to Carson Coffman, with the original starter showing no rust after not seeing the field since Week 6. He went to work finding Truesdell in the endzone twice in three possessions. In between those scores, Arvell Nelson welcomed himself back to Spokane scoring on a keeper of his own, Spokane’s only rushing touchdown of the night. When the second quarter hit, Truesdell kept piling it on. He caught a tight front corner pass for his third score, got control of a tipped and bobbled ball in the endzone for his fourth, and beat double coverage for his fifth. In last week’s interview after the close loss against Las Vegas, Truesdell told reporters “We just have to make plays. That’s it. We have to bounce back. Watch the film, learn from it, and come out next week and beat Portland. Come out strong.” He added on later, “We can’t make excuses, we have to make plays.” After mentioning playmaking twice, Truesdell did just that one week later after those comments and was named the Playmaker of the Game. The receiver ended his night with seven catches for 124 yards and the five aforementioned touchdowns.
Portland’s starter Alex Carder had a great touchdown pass near the end of the first, but he still seemed to have some jitters against the Shock defense after sacked once and picked off twice. Kyle Rowley substituted in halfway through the second quarter and had no problem laying the hammer down on the team he won his ArenaBowl with. Rowley went in on Spokane for 225 yards and 5 touchdowns, scaring the Shock fans that thought this game was open and shut after halftime. The second half was more of a back and forth affair starting with back to back Portland scores eight game minutes apart. The Thunder had a great team effort with rushes by John Martinez and Jared Perry throwing a touchdown pass after catching the last aerial TD Portland had. The effort came up short however as the clock hit quadruple zeros and the Shock won the contest 69-54.
Truesdell wasn’t the only Shock receiver to get on the board. Braylon Bell and Christian Wise contributed a score each, and Jabin Sambrano had a pair of touchdown grabs. Sambrano finished his night on par with Truesdell reception wise, as he caught eight passes for 125 yards. Carson Coffman was cool throughout the game giving up zero sacks and zero interceptions. His stat line was 20-32 with 328 yards and nine passing touchdowns. He also earned National Offensive Player of the Week honors for Week 13.
There’s always a point in fandom where you look at your team’s victory and go “Man, we needed that one badly.” Not only was that the sigh of relief for the Shock, it’s the hope for every game of theirs from now on until the season ends. Spokane is still scratching and clawing, as it is still possible to grab a wildcard spot. If the season ended after week 13, Spokane would be latching on to the four seed. Ironically, they’d be playing division foe and week 14 opponent San Jose SaberCats. With all teams having a handful of games left, nothing is given for Spokane or Las Vegas, the current National three seed. Nobody is mathematically eliminated in the league as of press time. The only sure thing is San Jose locking up one of the four spots in the National race. Winning out with the schedule the Shock has will be hard, but they will earn that playoff spot if they can manage to run their gauntlet successfully. Don’t count out the Outlaws either, as they are breathing down Spokane’s and Portland’s necks for the other National Wild Card seed. Who knows if L.A. can pull another upset or few out of nowhere, but for now, I don’t see them making the cut. Portland will have a great race against Spokane for second best in the Pacific division, and as far as Las Vegas goes, let the chips fall where they may.
Note that the last time Spokane lead on the scoreboard before Sunday, was when they defeated the Outlaws in Las Vegas. They never surrendered their lead in either game. However, the Shock’s opponents between the Vegas and Portland trips were the same. Perhaps tied at some points, but never gave up an outright lead. The last time Spokane had a lead anytime during a game and still lost was against New Orleans in Week 6. This kind of lightning may strike twice against San Jose as the SaberCats roar back into Spokane for the second time this year on Friday. Though the Shock may get some great plays, San Jose is San Jose. The SaberCats are the National Conference favorite, but still. As we learned in Week 12 when the KISS pulled off arguably the biggest upset in league history against Eric Meyer and company, never say never. Whatever happens during the Pacific Division clash, San Jose will still have their heads high as Division Champions and a guaranteed top two seed in the National Conference Playoffs..
The Shock-SaberCats matchup takes place on Friday, June 26 while Portland plays another Sunday game on June 28 in Las Vegas against the Outlaws. As usual, all AFL games will be available online on ESPN3.com and the WatchESPN app.