Indoor football kicks-off this spring

Derek Harper, Staff Reporter

Football isn’t over after the Super Bowl because indoor football starts up in May. Fans have multiple cities around the state where they can go to check out an indoor football game. 

The American West Football Conference (AWFC) includes teams throughout Idaho, Washington and Oregon. In Washington, fans can check out the Tri-City Rush based out of The Hapo Center in Pasco, the Yakima Canines based out of the Yakima SunDome and the Wenatchee Valley Skyhawks based out of the Town Toyota Center. 

In the higher level Indoor Football League (IFL), fans can check out the Spokane Shock at Spokane Veterans Memorial Arena.

Both the AWFC and IFL kick-off this May. The Wenatchee Valley Skyhawks however, don’t have their first home game until June 5 against the Tri-City Rush at 7 p.m. Opening night for the Rush sees them taking on the Oregon High Desert Storm May 15 at 6 p.m. This will be Tri-City’s inaugural season in the AWFC after the Tri-Cities Fire folded mid-season in 2019. 

For the Canines, they’ll open at home May 9 against the Rush at 6 p.m. The Canines were set to debut in 2020, but their inaugural season was pushed to this spring.

The Shock open their inaugural season in the IFL at home against the Frisco Fighters May 15 at 7:05 p.m. A pre-season game is expected prior to that against the Tampa Bay Tornadoes, but a date and time is yet to be determined. The Shock, like the Yakima Canines of the AWFC were set to debut in 2020 but were forced to push it back a year.

Tri-City Rush head coach and offensive coordinator Brandon Tate and head coach of the Spokane Shock, Billy Back both emphasized that they’re looking forward to getting out in front of fans this spring.

Tri-City has a rich history of indoor football with the Tri-City Fever who played in a few different leagues existing for many years. Before folding mid-season, they had the Tri-Cities Fire and now the Rush. But the Rush are looking to put their own stamp on things this spring.

“We definitely have our own style, our own way that we do things, but we definitely look at a lot of what the Fever did,” Tate said. “I mean they were one of the most successful arena football organizations around, I remember them from start to finish and just the presentation they put on, there was never a break in the action.”

Tate explained how as soon as there would be a commercial break there’d be something happening on the field. Getting fans involved and close to the action was another thing both he and Back talked about. With indoor football, if the ball goes into the stands, fans get to keep it. Fans sometimes even get a player in their lap if he goes over the boards for the ball.

For Spokane, this is a new era of Shock football after they folded in 2015 under different ownership. Previously, the Shock existed as members of the Arena Football 2 (AF2) from 2006-2009, which was a development league for the Arena Football League (AFL). In the AF2, Spokane won the championship in 2006 and 2009 before joining the AFL in 2010. In the AFL they won a championship their first year.

When the team folded after the 2015 season, the Spokane Empire launched and played for two seasons from 2016-2017. The Empire folded after the 2017 season. The Shock brand was reacquired from the AFL in exchange for the rights to the Empire brand for a new AFL team based out of Albany, NY. 

Head coach Billy Back looks to build off the previous franchise’s success with his successful resume in various leagues. This includes a championship in his first year in the National Arena League (NAL) with the Carolina Cobras and success in the IFL with the Wichita Falls Nighthawks.

Back said the Spokane Shock brand is special in the arena and indoor football world like many other franchises. A few other notable franchises he named off in addition to Spokane included the Green Bay Blizzard, Iowa Barnstormers and Arizona Rattlers. For him, the opportunity to be the head coach of the Shock was basically a dream come true.

“The Spokane Shock name itself, I remember back in the day I told my wife if the Shock ever came back I’d like to take that head coaching job,” Back said.

He explained when he initially said that, he was joking around but when it happened, he said he felt stunned.

For fans, he touched on what people can expect when they attend a Shock game and what makes the indoor game unique. 

“The indoor game, it’s fast, it’s quicker, you watch other leagues and new guys come into these games and the timing’s not quite there,” Back said.