03/18/2011 6:09 PM
The all-time series between Spokane and Cleveland is tied at one game a piece.
After a disappointing loss last week against the San Jose SaberCats, Head Coach Rob Keefe is anxious to get things back on track when the Shock host the Cleveland Gladiators Saturday night.
“The best way to get over a loss is to get a win,” Keefe said. “Last week’s game is something that we are not going to think about until we play San Jose again but we are going to learn from our mistakes and we are going to make sure that we don’t make them twice. Once you get the first win under your belt, you can start to build and the momentum will swing in a positive direction.”
For Cleveland, Saturday night’s game will be their first of the season after a bye on opening weekend. Last season, the Shock and the Gladiators spilt the season series with one win apiece.
The 2011 edition of the Cleveland Gladiators features many familiar faces with a few key additions. Among the returners, is QB John Dutton who returns to Cleveland for his second season with the Gladiators and his tenth in the AFL. A two-time ArenaBowl champion, Dutton passed for 5,104 yards with 100 touchdowns in 2010. Dutton’s top two receivers from last season, Ben Nelson and Brent Holmes, did not return to Cleveland but they have been replaced by two top receivers in their own right, Robert Redd and Troy Bergeron. Before sitting out last season, Redd led the Gladiators in receptions (129) and receiving yards (1,523) and added 16 touchdowns in 2008. Bergeron, a former af2 teammate of Keefe, brings an impressive resume that includes significant time in the NFL (most recently with the Dallas Cowboys in 2010) is entering his third season in the AFL. Although 2011 will be Bergeron’s first season in Cleveland, it will be his second in Head Coach Steve Thonn’s offense. In 2007, Bergeron flourished with the Georgia Force (Thonn was the Offensive Coordinator) where he recorded a career-best 132 receptions for 1,736 and 41 touchdowns.
Defensively, the Shock’s game plan starts up front. Spokane’s Khreem Smith will need to apply continuous pressure on Dutton. In Spokane’s 2010 overtime win over Cleveland, the Shock defense forced two fumbles, both of which resulted in touchdowns for Spokane.
“We have to make sure that we get pressure,” Keefe explained. “We have to make sure that we get in Dutton’s face and we have to make sure our crowd is loud and obnoxious. We have to make him as uncomfortable as we possibly can.”
Offensively, the Shock will need to avoid the pressure of Cleveland’s Anthony Hoke who registered 7.5 sacks last season, including 2.5 against the Shock.
Rowley will need to re-ignite the connection he found with last week’s leading receiver, Raul Vijl. The Rowley and Vijil connection produced 161 receiving yards and a touchdown. WR Markee White and WR Greg Orton tied for the team lead in touchdown receptions with two apiece.
FAN GUIDE: Raising the banner: Prior to kickoff, Spokane will have a brief ceremony commerating last year's ArenaBowl Championship by raising a banner into the rafters. Early bird gets a magnet: The first 5,000 fans into the Arena will receive a 2011 magnet schedule courtesy of TicketWest. Stay late get a sticker: At the conclusion of the game, fans will receive a Spokane Shock sticker courtesy of Spokane's CW 22 and Doughboys Tools & Equipment. Tickets still available: At the end of business on Friday, tickets were still available for Saturday night's game. To purchase tickets, call 1800 325 SEAT or visit ticketwest.com