Posted on July 19, 2013 at 11:44 PM
After almost a month break since their last home game, the Spokane Shock will return to the Spokane Veterans Memorial Arena to take on the San Antonio Talons Friday, July 19 at 7 p.m. (PST).
Although a playoff spot is already secure, the game is not without meaning for the Shock (12-4, 4-2) as they are still fighting for playoff position with West Division rival San Jose SaberCats (12-4, 3-3), who are winners of four straight games and have been hot on the heels of Spokane for the No. 3 seed.
Even with identical records, the Shock, winners of three straight games themselves, still hold the tiebreaker advantage over the SaberCats after winning both of the head-to-head matchups earlier this season.
Spokane continued their push for the three seed after a two-game Florida sweep of the Jacksonville Sharks and Tampa Bay Storm the last two weeks.
In last Saturday’s 62-40 win against the Sharks, quarterback Erik Meyer etched his name into the Shock history books after connecting with backup quarterback/wide receiver Arvell Nelson for a third quarter touchdown. With the touchdown pass, his fifth of the night and No. 101 on the season, Meyer broke the franchise single season record for touchdown passes that was previously set by current Jacksonville starter Kyle Rowley (100) in 2010. Meyer would add another touchdown pass in the game giving him six on the night and extending the record to 102 with two games still left to play.
Nelson played a big role in helping Meyer break the record as he asserted himself as a red zone threat catching five passes for 38 yards and four touchdowns. And for the second consecutive week the unlikeliest of Meyer’s targets, offensive lineman Chris Pino, caught a touchdown pass this time a 26-yard score.
Rowley might have contributed more to his former team rather than the Sharks as he threw three interceptions, two of which were returned for touchdowns by linebacker Terence Moore and defensive back Paul Stephens, while also fumbling in the first quarter after being sacked by defensive end Diyral Briggs.
The Talons (9-7, 2-2), fresh off a 68-42 win over Tampa Bay, are also in a playoff fight of their own, however with the Chicago Rush (9-7, 2-2) for the National Conference Central Division championship and the final automatic National Conference spot in the playoffs.
The Talons defense, which came into last Saturdays game against the Storm ranked first in the league, lived up to the billing as they sacked Tampa Bay quarterback Randy Hippeard four times while forcing him into a miserable 13-of-33 passing for only 246 yards and three interceptions, including one linebacker Jamar Ransom returned for a touchdown.
Quarterback Rohan Davey led a spirited effort from a San Antonio offense that has struggled mightily this season (No. 13 in the league in passing offense 238.9 ypg., No. 11 in total offense 264.2 ypg.) throwing for 313 yards and eight touchdowns, earning himself the Russell Athletic Player of the Game in the process.
Talons duel threat wide receiver D.J. Stephens gave Davey a run for his money catching 11 passes for 184 yards and five touchdowns while also returning the second-half opening kickoff 29-yards to set up an 11-yard touchdown catch from wide receiver Brent Holmes a couple of plays later.
Spokane is all too familiar with Stephens’s playmaking ability as he almost single handedly won the game for San Antonio in the first meeting between the two teams on May 24.
The Talons, who were down to second-string quarterback Xavier Lee after starter Nick Hill left the game with an injury mid-way through the first quarter, clawed their way back into the game thanks in large part to Stephens and his back-to-back fourth quarter kickoff returns for touchdowns. Stephens also added nine receptions for 99 yards on the day while the second half of the Talon’s wide receiver tandem, Jomo Wilson, caught eight passes for 105 yards and three touchdowns.
However, Stephens’s spectacular performance was not enough to overcome a dominant showing from Meyer and Tennell in the 61-48 Spokane victory.
Meyer completed 23-of-29 passes for 255 yards and seven touchdowns, while also adding two scores on the ground. He hooked up with Tennell 12 times for 177 yards and four touchdowns while finding Kamar Jorden for two touchdowns and Duane Brooks one.
Meyer will be facing an improved Talons defense on Friday as San Antonio is currently fifth in the league in scoring defense allowing 48.7 points per game and fifth in passing defense relinquishing only 246.9 yards per game.
Defensive back Fred Shaw leads a secondary that is third in the AFL in pass defense efficiency and is tied with Paul Stephens for fourth in the league with nine interceptions on the season.
With 33 sacks, the Talons are third in the AFL and are headed by defensive end Joe Sykes who is enjoying an outstanding year on the defensive front, leading the AFL with 12 sacks while also standing at third in the league in tackles for loss with 14 on the season.
San Antonio, who is second in the league in time of possession, will once again try to implement a patient offensive approach against the Shock as they dominated the last matchup holding on to the ball for nearly 37 minutes compared to just more than 23 minutes for Spokane.