Shocking! Spokane Storms Tampa Bay in ArenaBowl XXIII Victory
With his team leading 48-28 and just five minutes to play in the third quarter, K Taylor Rowan stood in his own end zone and waived his arms in the air prior to a kickoff. He knew the ArenaBowl XXIII crown belonged to the Spokane Shock.
Prior to the ArenaBowl, Spokane head coach Rob Keefe said that he was tired of his team being disrespected all season long. On Friday night at Spokane Arena, any potential disrespect for his squad was removed, as the Shock took out the Tampa Bay Storm 69-57 to win ArenaBowl XXIII.
The atmosphere in Spokane was absolutely electric. 11,017 fans packed into the stadium for the city's first ever ArenaBowl and its second Arena Football championship game. Previously, the 2008 ArenaCup ended in a disaster, as the Tennessee Valley Vipers ripped the hearts out of the Shock with a 56-55 overtime defeat.
However, the game that was dubbed by both majority owner/CEO Brady Nelson and Keefe as the biggest event in the history of the city of Spokane had a picture perfect ending, as confetti dropped from the rafters and the Shock and their fans rejoiced.
The Storm opened up the game by taking a 7-0 lead on a frustrating opening possession for the hosts. Both DL Jerry Turner and DB Alex Teems were lost to injuries. Turner only played one more down the rest of the game, while Teems never returned. However, the Shock, even with just 18 bodies to play with, wouldn't be daunted or denied. They rolled off 20 straight points, highlighted by an interception by DB Mervin Brookings and fumble recovery on a sack by DL Jeremy Geathers.
After Tampa Bay answered with a touchdown, WR Markee White picked up his third touchdown grab of the game to push the lead to 27-14 with one minute to play in the first half. Spokane had its scariest moment of the game when the Storm recovered an onside kick following a touchdown with 0:49 to play in the first half.
Tampa Bay took a 28-27 lead that was short lived.
White came up with his fourth score of the half from 22 yards away, which gave him seven catches and 70 yards in the first half of play. A blocked field goal by WR Emery Sammons right at the gun preserved a 34-28 halftime lead that was never relented.
The second quarter was a great one for White, but it was a record-tying stanza for the Shock. The 28 points scored in the second quarter tied the Orlando Predators for the most points ever scored in a quarter.
Catches eight and nine for White highlighted a very systematic first drive of the half for Spokane, but QB Kyle Rowley wrapped it up with a one yard touchdown plunge to push the lead to two scores.
The Storm would never get closer than that again.
DB Travis Williams got in on the act for the short-handed Shock, as he picked off Tampa Bay QB Brett Dietz on the second defensive play of the first drive of the second half.
It was cashed in immediately with Rowley's sixth TD pass of the game to push the lead to 20.
In spite of the fact that the Storm continued to score and attempt onside kick after onside kick, none were ever successful. The game was effectively salted away, sealing up the championship.
First team All-Arena OL Ed Ta'amu caught a touchdown pass with 9:04 to play to give his quarterback the distinction of tying San Jose SaberCats QB Mark Grieb for the most TD tosses in ArenaBowl history.
The Storm pulled back to within 12 points, but never got the ball back again. With one final run by Rowley, and the celebration was on.
Rowley finished the day by completing 24-of-32 passes for 237 yards with nine scores and one on the ground. His top targets, Whittaker and White each had four TD receptions. The 69 points scored tied an ArenaBowl record, matching the scoring efforts of both the 2004 San Jose SaberCats and the 2006 Chicago Rush. Ten offensive touchdowns also tied an ArenaBowl record.
Spokane became the first expansion team in the history of the Arena Football League to capture an ArenaBowl in its first season.