Welcome to Deaf Valley.
The Pittsburgh Power (4-3) are looking for their second win in a row as they travel to Spokane to take on the Spokane Shock (5-2). Both teams had convincing wins last week and both rank in the top 5 in the AFL Coaches Poll.
Spokane enters the game ranked 3rd in the AFL coaches poll but will try to find a way to win without their quarterback and reigning league MVP Erik Meyer who suffered a broken collarbone last week against Los Angeles. Spokane also lost their backup Jarrett Brown to injury last week in practice which forced wide receiver Rashaad Carter into emergency duty. To fill the roster spots, the team was assigned former IFL quarterbacks Donovan Porterie and Dennis Havrilla. While it remains to be seen who will lineup under center for the Shock, the bottom line is the team has gone from one of the best quarterbacks in the league to an unproven rookie which has to be a serious question mark for a top contender.
What isn’t in question is the talent the Shock has at wide receiver. Last year’s Cutters Wide Receiver of the Year and first team all-arena talent Adron Tennell remains and this guy can flat out play. His size (6’4” 200 pounds) and playmaking ability makes him a strong threat anywhere on the field. Add blazing fast Mike Washington, a former Power standout, to the mix and you can see why Spokane has had one of the best offenses in the league. Brandon Thompkins is enjoying his best season in the AFL by far and all three receivers combined make it a tough matchup for any AFL secondary.
Pittsburgh’s offense was clicking on all cylinders last week against Philadelphia and looks to continue that against Spokane. Quarterback Tommy Grady has been very efficient all season long, only throwing six interceptions and will need to be smart with the ball against a Spokane secondary with some strong playmakers. Prechae Rodriguez remains questionable so the team will once again look to Shaun Kauleinamoku and Rodney Wright to bear most of the burden in the receiving corps. Wright is coming off a strong performance (163 yards and five touchdowns) against Philadelphia that made him one of the three finalists for the AFL Weekly MVP award. Keep an eye on Tyrone Goard who is capable of making some big plays when given the chance.
Terrance Sanders is a nightmare matchup on kickoff returns and also in his regular role in the Shock secondary. This first team all-arena talent can quickly turn any mistake into a touchdown going the other way. He currently leads the Shock with five interceptions and has also produced 659 yards and a touchdown in kickoff return duties so far this year. Paul Stephens is another tough playmaker for Spokane’s defense. Stephens had 12 interceptions a year ago and has two this year. While it’s been more of a quiet year by his standards he does lead the team with 15 pass breakups and is still making big plays in coverage.
Spokane’s pass rush is strong and will present a big challenge for Pittsburgh’s offensive line up front. James Ruffin (7.5 sacks), Derrick Summers (5.5 sacks) and Terrance Taylor (5 sacks) can create havoc up front and rush throws which gives their secondary a big advantage. How well the Power handle this pressure is probably going to go a long way in determining the outcome of this game.
Pittsburgh has plenty of playmakers of their own on defense. Virgil Gray is another player who can twist the fate of a team with one quick play and leads the team with six interceptions. Sergio Gilliam, who won an af2 championship with Spokane, seems eager to play in front of these fans again. The Power will also get a boost with the return of James Bryant at mack linebacker. Bryant has missed several weeks with a hamstring injury but his return should help the pass rush of the Power harass whichever quarterback starts for Spokane.
This is going to be a tough matchup for the Power because the denizens of Spokane Arena know how to make it loud. The arena has the nickname Deaf Valley for a reason and the Goal Line Bandits know how to create some chaos. This is going to be a playoff atmosphere and one that should help the Power see where they stand in terms of battle readiness for the rest of the season.
Photo Courtesy of Pittsburgh Power Facebook