You Can’t Go Home Again
Week 3, 2014 season: Danny Southwick gets the call with a couple days’ notice that he’s probably going to be starting (though he didn’t come in until the second quarter) the third game of the season for the 0-2 Portland Thunder, as they take on the Los Angeles KISS in Southwick’s hometown at the time.
Week 3, 2015 season: Danny Southwick gets the call with a couple days’ notice that he’s probably going to be starting the third game of the season for the 0-2 Spokane Shock, as they take on the Portland Thunder in Southwick’s current hometown.
The life of a quarterback without a guaranteed starting role in the AFL doesn’t change much.
“[After last year] I thought, ‘Well, it won’t be like that this year,’” said Southwick. “Sure enough, that’s exactly what happened.”
The little differences, though, made it an odd night.
Southwick entered the Moda Center and took a left for the first time toward the visiting locker room instead of the home side he’d spent most of last season changing in. He warmed up with a new team. His first actual start of the season in 2014 had been for the Thunder in Spokane. Now he’d be starting his first game of 2015 for the Shock in Portland.
In the first half against the Thunder, Southwick came out on fire, completing his first nine passes for four touchdowns en route to a 29-20 halftime lead for the visiting Shock. In the second half, however, the pocket got smaller. The receivers had better coverage on them. Some balls bounced the Thunder’s way, and Portland’s fans left happy with a 47-43 win.
“Early on, when he was picking us apart, we weren’t getting any heat. The key to getting to Danny is…getting to Danny. You get to him and the ball is going to come out early or he’ll hold onto it,” said Thunder Head Coach Hohensee. “It’s just like any quarterback, really.”
While players said that nothing was different about this game, a game against a former teammate who was in camp with the Thunder this season, the hints were there: It was weird for everyone.
Thunder quarterback Kyle Rowley found himself rooting against friends either way when his defense was on the field last night.
“I’m good friends with Danny, he’s a great guy, he’s been there for me ever since I’ve known him…but you wish him the best and hope you get the win in the meantime,” said Rowley. “Danny and I have a competitive relationship. A lot of the reason we respect each other so much is because we’re very competitive. If we weren’t so competitive, we wouldn’t be as good of friends as we are.”
Defensive player of the game Bryce Peila took his first two turnovers of the season and turned them into touchdowns. First, he corralled a deflected pass that he returned 46 yards for a score to stop the Shock’s first drive of the second half. On the Shock’s next play from scrimmage, he returned an aborted snap for a second touchdown, giving the Thunder their first lead since the first drive of the game.
“[Peila]’s a little gnat. It seems like if there’s a ball that gets bobbled, he’s there,” Southwick joked quickly after the game.
Peila continued with Hohensee’s line about how it was just like facing any other quarterback at first. Eventually, however, he admitted that there was a little bit of an advantage playing against a guy you’ve seen in practice day in and day out for a year.
“I don’t really look at it any differently, but you could say that going against a guy that we did have in camp, we probably did have a bead on him,” said Peila. “That’s a slight advantage, but you’ve still got to play.”
The Thunder escaped what could have been a nightmare for them, watching the quarterback they cut after training camp earn a win on their home field.
What seemed to be a game-clinching touchdown to Rashaad Carter bounced off Carter’s hands and scraped the turf while Carter attempted to corral it. After a referee review, the touchdown turned into a turnover on downs and Portland won it on a run by fullback John Martinez. In the end, Rowley and the defense had just enough to secure the Thunder’s second win of the young season.
Southwick still ended up with a win of his own for the evening. He and his wife had been expecting a boy on April 4*, but he and his wife ended up inducing labor shortly after the game on Thursday. Their son, Liam, was born on April 11.
*The Shock had actually intended on signing him for Week 2, but knew his situation and didn’t want to take him away from his wife at that time.