Shock Stumble, Still Topple Power for 14-4 Regular Season
It appeared as though the Spokane Shock would enter Friday’s game with little to play for. But all that changed when the AFL realized their seeding blunder. It was still possible for the Shock to earn the first seed in the National Conference, but they had to win on Friday night to have any chance of that happening. It wasn’t pretty, but they achieved their goal in end with a 61-43 triumph over the Pittsburgh Power. Sloppy play by the Shock had them down at the half, but their second half resurgence was enough to put them over the top and into contention for coveted home field advantage.
Blown opportunities were rampant in the first half for the Shock. The offense started slow and couldn’t get out of its own way, despite the defense and special teams making big plays. A recovered bar ball by Kamar Jorden for a TD gave the Shock a 13-7 lead. On the next possession, Terrance Taylor picked off Power quarterback Shane Austin, who was under duress and was trying to throw the ball away. It was a 20-7 lead and had Shock blowout written all over it.
But Spokane couldn’t take advantage of even more opportunities to come. After Terence Moore made a tremendous leaping interception, Erik Meyer threw a rare interception of his own to turn the ball right back over to the Power. Later, a Power four and out was mirrored on the ensuing Shock possession. After the Shock gave up a safety and touchdown, their 20-7 lead had evaporated into a ten point deficit. The two foes traded scores, but Spokane had a chance to cut into the Power lead headed towards half time. However, Meyer threw a second interception and Spokane went into the intermission behind 36-27.
The second half was a completely different game. The Shock emerged from the locker room rejuvenated. Andy Olson told reporters, “Effort in the first half was poor. Effort in the second half was Shock football. The first half was probably the most sloppy we’ve been all season. It was frustrating, but everyone kept their cool and I knew we’d be okay.” Three consecutive Power drives ended with turnovers, and Spokane took advantage with every single one by scoring a touchdown. The seesaw scoring was back in Spokane’s favor, this time for good.
The Shock offense had a performance filled with misfires and mistakes. Meyer, who normally takes extreme care of the football, tossed two careless interceptions in the first half. They also gave up the aforementioned safety. They rebounded in the second half, but a more well-rounded performance will be essential in this week’s playoff game.
The defense deserves a tremendous amount of credit for their turnaround this season. Early on, every game was a shootout, and Spokane’s offense was the reason they were winning games. But since the Arizona loss, the Shock became a far more complete team. There may not be a more opportunistic defense in the league. They get after the quarterback and the defensive backs’ insatiable desire for big plays cannot be contained. Despite a mediocre showing against the Power, whoever comes into the Spokane Arena this Thursday should be nervous.
Despite some uneasy play on the field, it was still a record setting night for the Shock. Erik Meyer broke the franchise record for passing yards in a single season, previously held by Kyle Rowley. On the other side of the ball, James Ruffin broke the franchise record for sacks in a single season, formerly held by Jon Williams. And maybe the best overall player on the roster, Terrance Sanders broke an AFL single season record for return yardage.
Make no mistake: a performance like this will result in a quick and painful elimination from the postseason for Spokane. They rallied back from a poor first half, but the likes of Chicago, San Jose and Arizona will not falter in the second half the way that Pittsburgh did. Spokane will now have to anxiously sit back and await the result of Saturday’s contest between Arizona and Iowa. Tonight, everyone in Spokane is a Barnstormers fan. A preview of Spokane’s opening playoff game will be available once their opponent has been determined.