Category Archives: Spokane Shock

Playoffs!? You Kidding Me? Playoffs?!

Playoffs!? You Kidding Me? Playoffs?!

By Alex Gustafson

In the words of Rob Schnider in The Waterboy: “Oh no! We suck again!”

The Spokane Shock had a great turnaround in Portland last week, but San Jose was the next team up on the schedule and they were not willing to take their foot off the gas pedal. The third and final contest between the two Pacific Division rivals took place up in Spokane last Friday, and the SaberCats absolutely smashed their opposition.

Spokane has a disgusting habit of not scoring in quarters. They could not put any points on the board in the first, letting Eric Meyer and Reggie Gray do their thing and throw up two touchdowns before the second quarter rolled around. It was then that Spokane kicked into gear. Carson Coffman got in contact with last week’s star Nick Truesdell with a one handed pass in the endzone that earned Catch of the Game honors. Braylon Bell added on an impressive touchdown, and Mike McMillan scooped and scored to tie the game which was ruled AFL Highlight of the Game. A missed extra point from Taylor Rowan prevented the Shock from gaining an outright lead against San Jose for the first time all season. Halftime produced a bit of hope, but once play resumed, Spokane got straight up manhandled.

That disgusting habit reared its ugly head again in the third with zero points in favor of Spokane. Meyer however showed no mercy against his former team and lit the scoreboard up all night. His first start against Spokane resulted in Player of the Game honors as he went 26-34 for 277 yards and eight total touchdowns, one of them a rushing score. His weapons varied with Gray, Jeremy Kelly, Ben Nelson, Darius Reynolds, and even one of his linemen Rich Ranglin for receiving touchdowns. Meyer’s line did their job and he capitalized on finding open receivers all game long. Pressure from Spokane’s defense was present, but was not a factor as Meyer was never sacked or intercepted.

Spokane’s offense was barely able to get off the ground as the San Jose defense suffocated the Shock. Carson Coffman was held to 165 yards and a pair of touchdowns before injuring his shoulder in the third quarter. Arvell Nelson took over and connected with Truesdell for six, but the effort was too little, way too late. When your opposition goes on a 42-0 run during any point of the game, you’re going to lose. When you put up zero points in two quarters of play, you’re going to lose. The SaberCats got their brooms and swept the Shock away 62-27.

A couple of thoughts can be taken away from this contest. Spokane only scored 81 points over three games against the SaberCats. San Jose still would have beaten them in one game alone when they threw up 83 against the Shock back in Week 8. And the SaberCats three game total versus Spokane you ask? That would be an even 200 points. San Jose has a quality team that refuses to take any opposition lightly, no matter their record. Though the beating Spokane took was terrible to relive, it’s good to see that Darren Arbet didn’t take the Shock for granted and played them straight up. The SaberCats now look to the playoffs in a race against the Arizona Rattlers for the top two seeds in the National Conference. The boys in green have the advantage as they are spoiled with a bye in Week 18, not to mention being up by two wins. Their last appearance in the ArenaBowl was in 2008, the season before the league reboot and since then, only Spokane and Arizona have won the Jerry B. Kurz Trophy. This should be San Jose’s year to finally take the National crown and represent the west in the ArenaBowl again.

Every single person on that SaberCat roster is looking to finally add that honor to their resume, and their opportunity for grabbing home field advantage is sterling. Arizona wouldn’t be content with being relegated to the two seed though, as they have been the one seed in the conference for the last four years. The mystery as to which team gets what seed won’t be solved for another month until the Rattlers take on the SaberCats in Arizona in Week 19. It should be a huge test for Arizona, but Nick Davila should be ready to take it. BJ Coleman was the man behind center for the Rattlers when they lost San Jose earlier this year, but Davila has a history of taking the Cats down when it counts. Don’t be surprised though if Arbet and company counter by trying to court Maurice Purify for an added edge.

Though the Shock lost in ugly fashion, they were granted a stay of execution thanks to Las Vegas. The Outlaws narrowly defeated the Portland Thunder on Sunday. These three are all vying for the other two spots in the National race. One will be left out in the rain. The spots will be decided by a round robin challenge as Spokane hosts Portland and play their final regular season game down in Vegas. The Thunder will welcome the Outlaws to the Moda Center in between those matchups. With other teams acting as hurdles to all three, this will be an exciting race to see who will be coming out on top.

The LA KISS aren’t mathematically eliminated even after their loss to Arizona, but with a rematch with the Rattlers and their regular season finale versus San Jose looming, it’s hard to see the KISS steal one of those seeds. Perhaps a downed Spokane team could be the trick for Bob McMillen’s boys to play spoiler in the playoff hunt. Knowing Spokane though, when there’s work to do, they get it done. There’s still hope. There’s still a chance. Spokane is hanging on by a thread to make the postseason this year, and though we’re down, we aren’t out. Spokane has only missed the playoffs twice in nine full seasons. This town still believes. And in the words of Rob Schnider in The Waterboy, “You can do it!!”

The whole league is taking a summer vacation for Week 15, but Week 16 will see the Shock hit the road to take on the KISS on July 12. Before that, ESPN 2 will broadcast the SaberCats playing the New Orleans VooDoo on July 10. Other teams in the National Conference Playoff hunt will see Las Vegas travel to Arizona, and Portland hosting Jacksonville. American Conference games will feature Orlando vs. Tampa Bay and CBS Sports Network Game of the Week Cleveland vs. Philadelphia. The four latter games will be played on July 11.

You Can’t Handle the Truesdell

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.

Spokane Shock Suffer Franchise Worst Loss to the San Jose SaberCats

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.

Spokane Gets the Monkey off their Back

Spokane Gets the Monkey off their Back

By Alex Gustafson

The Spokane Shock had their second home game of the season facing the Orlando Predators. Orlando sported a 3-1 record before kickoff, and thoughts were still positive for the Shock faithful heading into the game albeit Spokane being winless in all three attempts this year. As a journalist, this was a very interesting and exciting game to watch and report on. As a fan, holy cow did the Shock need that win.

Carson Coffman came back ready to work. After his injury in the season opener against Arizona, he was ready to take his spot as the starting quarterback. For Orlando, Randy Hippeard wasn’t looking to be outshined as he looked to one up Coffman throughout the contest.

After a shootout of a first half ending 35-35, defense took over for both teams. The 3rd quarter was scored at 14 a piece highlighted by Terrance Taylor recovering a fumble at the Orlando 9 for a touchdown that was originally ruled a safety, then turned into a touchback before Spokane Head Coach Andy Olson threw his challenge flag.

“That felt good. We challenged each other (on defense) to step up and play our best” Said Taylor, who earned the AFL Highlight of the Game award for the play. After a stellar 3rd however, the entire 4th quarter was scoreless. Spokane got to see a rare treat in the form of an overtime game.

The last time the Shock went into extra time was May 11, 2012 when they hosted and defeated New Orleans. Though it was almost three full years since an overtime game for the franchise, the Shock looked ready to finish strong. Orlando started with the ball and drove for 5 minutes as a worn Hippeard found Kendal Thompins for the go-ahead score. The Preadators went for two, but failed as Bernard Morris was denied the endzone. Hippeard would finish with 397 passing yards and 6 touchdowns, winning the award for Offensive Player of the Game.

Coffman took over and after two incompletions, found Mike Washington for the tie. He would finish the game with 289 passing yards and 6 touchdowns as well. Taylor Rowan finished the game off with the extra point.

Defensive Player of the Game James Ruffin had four sacks and three forced fumbles, recovering two of them. “Orlando is a great team, no doubt. But we all stepped up and brought our A game tonight. It felt great.” Ruffin also indicated that there is a bit of friendly bickering between him and Terrance Taylor, and it is all in the spirit of competition. “We want the D to compete. He and I always go for it, I want to do better than him and he wants to do better than me. I think we tied today” he laughed.

Patrick Afif said this was an ugly game, but was very happy for the win. “We finally got the monkey off our back, but it felt like tonight took five years off of my life” he joked. The offensive lineman added “We have a lot of great talent, and it felt like a new season after our bye week. We’re starting to gel and it’s great.”

Andy Olson later commented “We still have a long way to go. We left some opportunities on the field we didn’t capitalize on and had some sloppy plays.” But asking about the revolving door at quarterback, he remarked “I’m happy to have some consistency at QB. The bye helped us as well. We just needed more time and we got it.”

Predators players and coaches obviously weren’t thrilled with the loss, but some showed different spirit than others. Orlando Head Coach Rob Keefe said that while he was happy to be back in Spokane for a homecoming of sorts, he was disappointed with the loss and strives to be better the rest of the stretch. “This is a learning experience. We’ll learn from this and get better because of it.”

Offensive Lineman Ryan Cave was not available for comment, but later posted on his Facebook page “7 turnovers n we loose by a point, yea I say we gave one away…..Live n learn from it n on to the next…”

Searching for available players for interviews, an interesting sentiment came up. Terrance Sanders was last year’s leading return man as well as a top 5 corner for Spokane, winning such accolades as “Playmaker of the Year.” As Sanders left the Shock, a vacancy had to be filled. Enter Ruschard Dodd-Masters. After coaching defensive backs such as Sanders last year, Dodd-Masters decided to put the pads back on and fill the void.

“It’s next man up.” Said Dodd-Masters. “We make plays, and when we get cohesive, it shows. I feel we’re 0-0 going into every week, and we keep this going one game at a time.” When asked about replacing Sanders after his career year, he answered “There is no replacing him. I tip my hat to him, but this year I want to be the best returner in the league. I wouldn’t say it if I didn’t mean it.”

From the fan perspective, it felt like a great Shock game of old. It may not have been a high scoring affair like other attempts, but the energy and excitement was missed. After a loss from Philadelphia, this game was a great way to get back in the swing of things for Spokane. Many of the players shared the same sentiments that they are finally gelling with each other and the pressure for the first win is finally off them.

Though it’s still early in the season, the next couple of games look to be better contests for the Shock as the next two games are against teams with only one win between them all season. Of course anything can happen in Arena Football, but I would be lying if I said I wasn’t looking forward to Los Angeles making their first ever visit to the Spokane Arena.

The Predators will head home to face the Cleveland Gladiators while Spokane’s next effort finds them back on the road against the New Orleans VooDoo. Both matchups take place May 2nd with start times at 7pm ET in Orlando and 8pm ET in New Orleans. As usual, all games can be seen online on ESPN 3 and the WatchESPN app.