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.