Rowley leads Spokane to ArenaBowl victory
SPOKANE, Wash. – Kyle Rowley, passed up when the All-Arena Football League teams were announced earlier in the day, passed for 237 yards and a record nine touchdowns to lead Spokane past Tampa Bay 69-57 in the ArenaBowl on Friday night.
“This is unbelievable,” Rowley said as confetti streamed down from the rafters of the Spokane Arena. “It’s a dream come true.”
The Shock, dominant in the minor league arenafootball2, became one of the AFL’s smallest markets when the league was revived after skipping the 2009 season due to bankruptcy.
Tampa Bay has won a record five ArenaBowls, but the Shock outplayed the more experienced Storm before a partisan, sellout crowd of 11,017.
“That’s what I based my decision on to come to Spokane; I thought we had a chance to win a championship,” said Rowley, a former Shock player who starred for Arkansas in af2 last year.
Rowley, who played at Brown, was named the game’s MVP.
“Kyle’s awesome!” Spokane wide receiver Markee White said.
White and Huey Whittaker both caught four touchdown passes for the Shock.
All four of White’s scores came in the second quarter, including a spectacular 4-yard TD when the 6-foot-7 Texas State product soared high into the air and was knocked over a sideline barrier as he hauled in the ball.
Rowley, who ran for one touchdown, completed of 24 of 32 passes with no interceptions.
“They were playing us man,” White said. “Tampa is a great team, but no one can stop us man-to-man.”
Tampa Bay’s Brett Dietz completed 29 of 40 passes for 306 yards and four touchdowns. However, he accounted for all three turnovers in the game – two interceptions and a fumble – and Spokane scored a touchdowns after each of them.
“They did a nice job,” Tampa Bay coach Tim Marcum said. “They’re well-coached. They didn’t make any mistakes.”
Whittaker caught three touchdown passes in the second half.
Tampa Bay running back Eric Ortiz scored the first of his three rushing touchdowns on the game’s opening drive. The Shock responded with three straight touchdowns and never trailed again.
All three of Dietz’s turnovers led to touchdowns. He lost a fumble late in the first quarter when he was sacked with a vicious blindside hit by Jeremy Geathers. Melvin Brookins intercepted Dietz on Tampa Bay’s next play from scrimmage early in the second quarter, and Aaron Robbins leaped near the goal line to intercept Dietz on Tampa Bay’s first drive in the third quarter.
Dietz came into the game with 106 touchdown passes and 16 interceptions. Rowley had 100 touchdown passes and 11 interceptions.
Rowley, who played at Brown, completed 24 of 32 passes with no interceptions in the title game, and he scored a touchdown. Dietz finished 29 for 40.
White led Spokane with nine catches for 99 yards. Hank Edwards had 11 catches for 132 yards and two touchdowns for Tampa Bay. Teammate Tyrone Timmons grabbed eight balls for 107 yards and one TD.
The Shock lost two starters – defensive lineman Jerry Turner and defensive back Alex Teems – to injuries in the game’s opening 5 minutes.
“Guys go down, we don’t put our eyes down,” White said. “Injuries are part of the game.”
Spokane coach Rob Keefe, who won an ArenaBowl as a defensive back with Philadelphia in 2008, won a second title in his first year as a head coach. Just 29 years old, Keefe was a Spokane assistant last season.
Shock owner Brady Nelson missed the game after suffering a ruptured appendix early Friday.
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