06/25/2010 3:21 PM
The Rematch: The Milwaukee Iron are on of two teams that have beat Spokane in ten games. The Shock travel to Milwaukee to even the series record against the Iron.
Something has to give.
Two of the top teams in the AFL will be put to the test this Saturday night as the Spokane Shock, who are undefeated on the road (4-0), travel to Milwaukee to face the Iron, who are undefeated at home (6-0).
Saturday night’s game also features two of the top offenses in the league. Spokane leads the league in scoring at 66.7 points per game. Milwaukee’s offense is close behind averaging 66.1 points per contest.
Something has to give.
In the first meeting of the season, Spokane’s defense gave up 74 points to Milwaukee’s high-powered offense and lost by 12.
“They embarrassed us at home in the first game,” Head Coach Rob Keefe said. “A lot of people in the media wrote us off, a lot of fans were questioning what kind of players we have but I think it’s going to come full circle this weekend.”
Last weekend, the Iron lost an important divisional game to the Chicago Rush 56-63. After Milwaukee led most of the game, Chicago made a 35-14 run and then tied the game with just over four and a half minutes left in the third quarter. The Rush and the Iron continued to exchange scores until Milwaukee’s Chris Greisen threw a pass that was picked off by Chicago’s DeJuan Alfonzo, who returned the interception 54-yards for the winning touchdown.
The Shock fared much better last weekend and defeated the Tulsa Talons 63-42 for their sixth consecutive win, the longest winning streak in the league.
Despite Greisen’s rare mistake last weekend, he has only thrown six interceptions all season and he still leads one of the most potent offenses in the league. With 3,633 yards this season, Greisen leads the league in passing and is second with 74 touchdowns.
Since its first meeting with Milwaukee, Spokane’s defense has given up an average of only 52.6 points per contest. But Spokane’s defense will have its hands full with the talented receivers that surround Greisen. Milwaukee’s starting receiving corps includes: Nate Forse, Tiger Jones, and the AFL’s all-time leading receiver, Damian Harrell. Forse is third in the league in receptions (101) while Jones is tied for fourth in the league in touchdown receptions (31).
“I think that we will be up to the challenge, but we are very aware that they are capable of putting a lot of points up on the board,” Keefe explained. “They don’t have a weak link in their receiving corps. They complement each other very well. You can’t sleep on any of them because anyone of them can beat you at any time.”
Spokane’s secondary has collected 13 interceptions so far this season (fourth in the league), including four by rookie DB Travis Williams who leads the team in that category. Milwaukee’s high-octane offense will also be challenged by Spokane’s defensive line that has accounted for 18 sacks, tied for the highest total in the league. The Iron’s offensive line has not given up a sack all season.
The Shock will counter with a powerful offense of its own. Over the last five weeks, QB Kyle Rowley and WR Raul Vijil have developed an unstoppable connection. During that span, Vijil has collected 51 receptions for 684 yards including 24 touchdowns. In addition to Vijil, Rowley has at his disposal first team All-AFL receiver Huey Whittaker, who leads the team with 92 receptions. Last week WR Emory Sammons saw his first action of the season and made the most of it, recording five receptions, including a 47-yard touchdown catch. Sammons is expected to make his first start of the season Saturday night.
“We are learning how to play together, as a team. We are doing a lot of little things right now that we really weren’t in the first four or five games,” Keefe said. “Saturday’s game is really going to be a test for our team – how much Arena Football have you learned in eleven weeks? I like the progression of our football team – in all phases of the game. But Saturday’s game will be a test.”