Battle for Intense Conference Throne

Photo Credit: Matt Hinshaw
Photo Credit: Matt Hinshaw

SPOKANE, Washington  – The Spokane Empire (7-3, 6-1) will meet the Arizona Rattlers (6-4, 3-1) in Week 14 of the 2017 Indoor Football League regular season on Friday, May 12 at Spokane Veterans Memorial Arena with a 7:00 pm PST kickoff.

The first game between these two in Week 10 was an entertaining shootout with enough gunslinging to go around. Spokane's Charles Dowdell and Arizona's Cody Sokol threw six passing touchdowns each in the contest that saw the Empire get it done in the desert by a score of 60-51. Game two between these teams will now take place up in the great Pacific Northwest as the Rattlers travel to Spokane for the first time as an IFL member.

Arizona defeated the Cedar Rapids Titans last Friday 34-32, and astoundingly did so without scoring a single passing touchdown. All endzone trips for the Rattlers came in the form of rushing scores, three of which were courtesy of running back Darrell Monroe. Arizona was up by 14 in the fourth quarter but almost allowed a Titan comeback, only hanging on by two.

Meanwhile, Spokane was on the opposite side of the spectrum during Week 12 as they were bested by the defending United Bowl Champion Sioux Falls Storm last Saturday, 62-32. The Empire kept a deficit within one score going into halftime, but the Storm piled on the pressure with a punishing run attack and suffocating defense. Spokane only mustered 114 total offensive yards in the game, a season low.

Once again, Arizona has a chance to top Spokane for the number one spot in the Intense Conference. The Rattlers defeated two teams in the United Conference, and haven't lost any footing since they last saw the Empire three weeks ago.

Sokol has been consistent for the Rattlers, as the signal caller is keeping his passing percentage under control. His completion average is at 61.5% in his last four games. Sokol is also keeping interceptions low, only throwing five picks all year, with two of them against Cedar Rapids last week.

The ground game is especially working for Arizona still with Monroe winning Offensive Player of the Week in Week 11 versus Green Bay, and his aforementioned performance last Friday. Monroe is the current IFL rushing leader, averaging 56.9 yards per game.

A major outlier however are the rushing attempts against the Empire. Arizona only had 14 yards on 11 carries against Spokane, easily their worst effort all year. The passing game kept the Rattlers competing, but the question remains if Monroe simply had a bad week against Spokane, or if the Empire have his number.

Spokane's defense looks to take out last week's frustrations on the duo of Sokol and Monroe. Even accounting for last week, the Empire still have the top defense in the league as far as total yards per game allowed, capping teams at an average of 189.2. Andrew Jackson helps lead the charge with 65 total tackles on the year.

The other side of the ball for the Empire should be looking up as well this week. Every game so far this season that Dowdell finished under 100 passing yards, he exploded for over 200 the very next week. With his 84 yard passing game last Saturday, could the trend continue?

Dowdell is also Spokane's leading rusher with 379 yards on the season, but the Empire's running efforts have been hot and cold over the last few weeks with highs such as 116, and lows such as last week's 16. If previous numbers are any indication, we could very well see both teams abandon the run and engage in another passing clinic.

Friday's game will broadcast live on the IFL's YouTube Channel and also available on 700 ESPN and 105.3 FM radio in Spokane with Larry Weir on the call.