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Thunder looking to next level with win vs. Shock

D.K. White
Friday May 30, 2014

Any football team worth its salt is constantly reaching for the next level. The question for the expansion Portland Thunder is exactly what, or who is the next hurdle to climb? The answer here is, at least for the foreseeable future, actually pretty clear, and it's just up the road. 

…You guessed it. This week’s hosts: The Spokane Shock.
Spokane, currently in second place in the Pacific Division, still has its eye on the division title but is currently riding out a three-game losing streak.  Here is where the Thunder need to make their bones. At many times this season, the Thunder have played top tier defense, and with the scoring outbursts in Florida, now find themselves in a reasonably good spot going forward. Winning three of its last five games has Portland in sole possession of the fourth and final playoff spot in the National Conference with eight games to go. Furthermore, a win in Washington will put Coach Matt Sauk’s team one game behind its Pacific Division foes who, at the moment, has a tenuous grip on the third playoff wrung in the National Conference. Third is much better than fourth folks…just in case you were unaware.
Recently, Portland has brought in former Harvard center John Collins to remedy quarterback exchange woes and acquired former USC Trojan center and guard Abe Markowitz as well as Bowling Green and AFL alum Nick Torresso who has played offensive and defensive line. Both of the newcomers could contribute as soon as Friday, and not a minute too soon.  
Additionally Portland also seems to have found a bit of a gem in monstrously strong and durable utility man Brandon Lockheart. Lockheart has played significant minutes in the last five games at nose guard, fullback, and center as well as being named a team captain.
Following the stint at fullback against the Arizona Rattlers, coach Sauk said, “Brandon did well, and while he missed a few assignments, it was more a matter of inexperience at the spot than anything else.”  
Given recent injuries to the Thunder offensive line, the relief troops are certainly a welcome addition this week. This is because, though missing its best defensive back; Paul Stephens who recently departed for the CFL the Shock still own the second best QB sack numbers in the league.
The Shock, dear fans are the key. I nearly wrote two weeks ago that the then pending tilt with the San Jose SaberCats was the next hill to climb. Uh…no. The Thunder aren’t there yet. However, if fans in the Rose City have any hope of seeing a first season playoff appearance, a win against Spokane seems like a really swell idea. The fact is that the Shock are members of a group in which the Thunder should aspire to belong. 
The Rattlers, Cleveland Gladiators, Pittsburgh Power, and SaberCats are the elite at the moment. That’s just the way it is. Sauk and the crew have assembled a team that is easily as athletic as any in the AFL, and they also might have assembled a squad with less experience than any AFL team ever fielded. Having said that, If the Thunder can climb into the group populated by the Orlando Predators, Shock, Jacksonville Sharks, Philadelphia Soul and the likes and thereby secure a playoff spot, the inaugural year for the Portland Thunder has to called a rousing success.


Dave White is a freelance writer covering the Portland Thunder of the Arena Football League. He played Quarterback most of his 25 years in the game in various semipro leagues and hung up the cleats in 2012 at age 45. He "moonlights" as a Surgical Technologist in a large Oregon hospital and has preformed hundreds of procedures on athletes ranging from Pop Warner to the NBA. Dave spent 11 years in LA in the rock and roll business and in recent years has decided to take writing, a life long hobby, to the next level. While currently producing two works of fiction he will produce the column you will see here and is looking forward to it greatly. Dave is a die hard Central High School, Western Oregon Wolves, Beavers, Ducks and proud new Portland Thunder fan. He lives in Monmouth Oregon with his fiancée and their combined five kids...yep five.
The opinions expressed in the article above are only those of the writer, and do not necessarily reflect the thoughts, opinions, or official stance of ArenaFan Online or its staff, or the Arena Football League, or any AFL or af2 teams.
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