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Game Preview: Stockton Lightning At Spokane Shock

April 5, 2008 - arenafootball2 (af2) - Stockton Lightning News Release

QUICK FACTS:

Stockton Lightning (1-0)

at Spokane Shock (1-0)

Date: April 5, 2008

Kickoff: 5:00 p.m. PT

Site: Spokane Arena (9,909)

Radio: None

Internet: www.NiFTyTV.com/af2 (Steve McElroy)

Referee: Shane Anderson; Umpire: Roger Stewart; Head Linesman: Eric Crone; Line Judge: Ryan Fleming; Back Judge: Steve Currie

Series Record: Spokane leads, 4-0

Coaches: Doug Murray (Stockton - 7-10, 2nd season)

Adam Shackleford (Spokane - 13-4, 2nd season)

THE STAKES: The record of 2-0 often indicates a promising surge out-of-the gates in the game of football, and week 2 is no exception for the Stockton Lightning, who search for their first 2-0 start to the regular season in franchise history. Additionally, they're looking to snap a four-game losing skid against the Spokane Shock, returning to the Spokane Arena and a place that has dished them their first loss of the regular season in the last two years. Spokane is playing in their 2008 home opener and carry a 13-3 lifetime record at Spokane Arena.

THE IFs:

If Stockton defeats Spokane it would ...

● Give the Lightning their first 2-0 start in franchise history

● Give the Lightning their first all-time win at Spokane

● Lift Doug Murray's lifetime coaching record to 8-10

● Give the Lightning a 1-4 all-time record vs. Spokane

HEAD COACH PROFILES: Doug Murray - Stockton: Doug Murray enters his second season at the helm of the Lightning, introduced to the media as the second coach in Lightning history at a September 15, 2006 news conference at Stockton Arena. Guiding the team to a one-win improvement last year which included playoff contention into the final month of July, Murray oversees all on and off-field matters related to football operations.

Promoted from his position as Defensive Backs Coach in 2006, Murray's hand in the Lightning offense spearheaded their way to the eighth-best output with 4,527 yards in 2007, while the Lightning pass rating placed sixth in the league at 265.9.

A longtime resident of the Northern California area, Murray's defensive knowledge has been instrumental to the collegiate successes of Chabot College, Menlo College and the University of California at Davis, having then moved to the pro ranks with the Spring Football League (a precursor to the XFL), the Central Valley Coyotes of the af2 and then the Lightning.

Currently in his second tour of duty within the af2, Murray served on coaching staff with the Central Valley Coyotes in 2004 as defensive coordinator. Murray guided the Coyotes defense to finish third in the af2 with a 33.3 percent opponent fourth-down conversion rate, seventh in the af2 with 56 fumble return yards, 10th in the af2 with 226 first downs allowed, 11th in the af2 with 3,584 passing yards allowed and 12th in the af2 with 3,939 total defensive yards allowed.

Previously, Murray spent two years in the college football ranks as the defensive backs coach at the University of California-Davis, helping guide the Aggies to the NCAA Division-II quarterfinal playoff game in 2002 and helping the program earn their 34th consecutive winning season in UC Davis' first year of NCAA Division-I status in 2003.

Murray's ties to the Northern California-area are also linked to his college football playing career, where he earned two letters (1978-79) as a receiver at Cal State Hayward (NCAA).

Murray received his B.A. degree in Sociology from Hayward in 1986, followed by earning his master's in public administration in 1990. Murray currently resides in Stockton with his wife Natalia, daughter Naje, and son Nicolas.

Adam Shackleford - Spokane: This is Head Coach Adam Shackleford's second year as Head Coach in the af2, but his 5th year in the league. Last season, Shackleford led the Shock to their second-consecutive Western Division title, a playoff berth and a 12-5 overall record. He has coached in the arenafootball2 league since ¬¬¬2003 and worked with the ¬ two seasons as Louisville Fire as Offensive Coordinator. The Fire offense was third in the league last season, averaging 58 points per game. Under Shackleford, the Louisville Fire produced the 2005 and 2006 Offensive Player of the Year (Matt Sauk and Rob Mager) and the Rookie of the Year in 2006 (Brett Dietz). Shackleford began his 2007 season with a win against the Stockton Lightning, defeating them 51-35.

WHAT THEY'RE SAYING (courtesy of The Record)

"We just have to improve in every element of the game so we can be competitive. We're trying to learn how to function, and these games give us the ability to speed up that learning curve."

- Head Coach Doug Murray on this week's matchup against Spokane

"All of these guys played well, and the receiving corps came up with a lot of big plays. It was exciting because you're out there with guys who have never played (arenafootball), and they're hungry. It makes you feel younger."

- QB Chad Elliott on last week's win at Tri-Cities

"Chad is a good artist. I like to link up with other good artists to make music. In football, our chemistry is there. Over time, with more repetitions, it'll definitely become better."

- WR Hannibal Thomas on QB Chad Elliott, who are dabbing in the rap music industry while off the field

FOR THE LOVE OF FOOTBALL: The Stockton Lightning of the arenafootball2 league unveiled their 2008 marketing campaign earlier last week, officially deemed "For The Love Of Football," selecting the slogan with an emotional theme to celebrate the unique football experience for fans of all ages as the centerpiece in game night promotions, special events, community activities, charitable efforts, publications and the Lightning's official website, www.stocktonlightning.com.

The logo and graphics, developed by the Lightning marketing department, will interchange with different themed nights and community events this year to celebrate arena football, its rabid fan base, and the game-night experience to compliment specific themed nights hosted by the Lightning.

The year's festivities started grand style with the third annual Lightning "FanFest" on Sunday, March 30 (presented by 104.1 The Hawk, St. Joseph's Medical Center, The Record, Valley Brew Family Restaurant, Comcast & Port of Stockton California) from Noon to 2:00 p.m. at Stockton Arena.

LIGHTNING HIT THE AIRWAVES: The Stockton Lightning return to radio for the second straight on 1420 KSTN AM, airing Lightning home, away and ArenaCup Playoff games.

Beginning this season, all Lightning games will be available for viewing at www.stocktonlightning.com through an online stream via NifTy Online Television, free-of-charge. NFT's innovative video broadcasting solution incorporates a downloadable player that streams content directly to the viewer's computer desktop.

Mike Benton, who is also the radio play-by-play announcer for the ECHL's Stockton Thunder, will handle radio play-by-play duties for the third consecutive season with the Lightning and will be joined in the booth by color commentator Steve McElroy, who also serves Sacramento State University's athletic department with various broadcast roles. Returning to the broadcast team for his second straight year is local Northern California fan-favorite and former San Francisco 49ers wide receiver J.J. Stokes, who will contribute with additional color commentary on select Lightning broadcasts.

DROPBACK:

The first game of the AF2 season started off with a tremendous showing by seven- year veteran Chad Elliott, throwing for six touchdown passes, 168 yards and a 19-for-30 effort as the Stockton Lightning (1-0) cruised to a 46-32 victory over the Tri-Cities Fever in week 1 of arenafootball2 play from Toyota Center.

The Lightning started the first quarter with quickness with Elliott, throwing for 2 touchdowns to wide receiver WR Thyron Lewis. Elliott completed 6 of 7 passes in the first. The offense would not stop as Lightning FB Peter Tuialuuluu rumbled in for an 11-yard touchdown run.

The offense of Tri Cities (0-1), led by QB John Pierce was slow to start with only seven points in the first, came back in the second quarter to score on a 30-yard touchdown pass to LaMonte Jones with 11:05 remaining. The defensive onslaught by the Lightning kicked in during the second quarter and the half ended with the Lightning up 33-20.

Third quarter was all Lightning as the arm of Chad Elliott continued to score at-will with another 13yd TD pass to WR Hannibal Thomas. The start of the third also saw Fever QB Jason Campbell substitute in for John Pierce. Campbell struck quick with a 24yd pass to former Lightning receiver Phil Goodman, cutting the Lightning lead to 39-26. Elliott continued to strike with a seven-yard touchdown pass to Thomas for a Lightning touchdown.

Campbell answered back with a 5yd touchdown strike to Goodman. Elliott put the nail in the coffin with a 7-yard bullet to Hannibal Thomas to lift the Lightning to a 46-32 lead.

ALL-TIME SERIES RECAP:

Spokane leads the all-time series 4-0 and the Lightning are 0-2 all-time at Spokane Arena. The last time both teams met was April 28, with Spokane taking a 58-55 win over the Lightning at Stockton Arena.

In his first professional game, Lightning QB Evan Gray threw for a 20-for-34 effort along with 237 yards, no interceptions and seven touchdowns, one shy of tying a Lightning single-game mark set twice by Josh Blankenship in 2006. Spokane QB Andrico Hines completed 22-of-33 passes for 244 yards and three touchdowns.

Lightning WR/DB Kenyatte Morgan and Spokane's Antwone Savage traded touchdown scores in the first quarter for a 7-7 tie through the first 15 minutes. After Gray relieved Derrick Crudup in the second quarter, Gray began his tear with three touchdown passes in the frame, connecting with two to WR Sale' Key and one to B'Jay Jones.

Spokane answered with two red-zone touchdown rushes by Ben Gray and Katon Bethay to sandwich a three-yard touchdown reception by Andre Rector. Bethay scored on a one-yard blast with no time remaining in the first half to tie the game at 27-27.

With 6:56 left in the third quarter, the Lightning used a highlight-reel diving grab by Jones on a 24-yard touchdown strike from Gray to stay in the game with a three-point deficit, while Spokane put 10 points on the board with a 23-yard field goal by Jon Koker with 9:55 left and Brown's second touchdown scamper of the night, a two-yard run with 2:33 left to put the Shock up 37-34.

Both teams exchanged 21 points each in the fourth quarter as Jones collected two more touchdown receptions from Gray to keep the Lightning at a three-point deficit, while Savage scored on a five-yard touchdown grab with 41 seconds remaining to put Spokane ahead 58-48.

Morgan collected a nine-yard strike from Gray with 17 seconds remaining to close the Lightning gap to 58-55. Carl Walker then recovered an onside kick at the Stockton 18-yard line to set up one final rally attempt. Following two plays from scrimmage, kicker Alex Walls then lined up a 47-yard field goal attempt which was deflected by two Spokane defenders, ending the rally and the game.

Key led all Lightning receivers with 13 receptions and 130 yards, while Jones picked up four touchdown receptions in his first game with Stockton. Savage led all Spokane receivers with eight catches, 132 receiving yards and two touchdown receptions.

FORWARD MOTION: The Lightning settle into home digs beginning in week 3 with the 2008 home opener against the Boise Burn on April 12, followed by a week 4 home matchup against the Central Valley Coyotes. The Lightning do not see home turf again until May 17, when they face the Amarillo Dusters.

PLAYERS TO WATCH:

CHAD ELLIOTT (QB): One of the all-time passing greats in arenafootball2 history, local Northern California-product Chad Elliott joins the Lightning offense as a key piece to Doug Murray's attack for 2008. The local Grass Valley, Calif. native will enters his seventh season of professional football after a heralded career at local-area Sacramento Grant (Calif.) High, where he threw 48 touchdown passes and just two interceptions as a 1996 senior before launching his pro career with the Bakersfield Blitz and the Macon Knights.

Elliott shined in his Lightning debut in week 1, throwing for six touchdown passes and 168 yards in a victory over Tri-Cities.

The 6-foot-2, 208-pound signal-caller entered the 2008 season with 76 career professional games played, completing 1,491 pass attempts for 17,066 career yards, ranking second best in af2 history for both categories. His 315 touchdown passes were fourth best on the af2 career charts - while only throwing 72 interceptions.

MOST PASSING YARDS, ALL-TIME (af2)

PLAYER TEAM YARDS

1. Craig Strickland TUL, OKC 22,688

2. Chad Elliott* STK, BAK, MAC 17,234

3. Ryan Vena ALB, WBS 16,264

4. Chris Wallace* NOR, FLA 16,176

5. Matt Sauk TENN, LOU 14,142

* active

ALEX WALLS (K) - No one was more accurate when it came to splitting the three-point uprights last year than all-af2 kickerAlex Walls, who returns with the Lightning after leading the league with a 71.4 field goal percentage in 2007. Additionally, Walls surpassed the 100-point mark for the first time in his career last year, breaking his single-season record of 99 points (Birmingham, 2006).

Walls also hit two game-winning "walk-off" field goals last year - both from 39 yards - at home against Central Valley and on the road against Everett.

MOST FIELD GOALS MADE, ALL-TIME (af2)

PLAYER TEAM FG

1. Brian Hazelwood* BOS 51

2. Brandon Kornblue MAC, FLA 42

3. Alex Walls* STK, BIR, TEN 41

4. James Thomas GRN 38

Kimo Naehu* HAW, SD, QC 38

* active

HANNIBAL THOMAS (WR) - Currently in his second pro season, Hannibal Thomas comes off an impressive week 1 debut with the Lightning, hauling in three touchdown catches in a 46-32 win over Tri-Cities. Thomas split his pro career between the Amarillo Dusters and the Green Bay Blizzard of the af2 last year and while in Green Bay he racked up a 13.5 yds per catch average and one TD in his 4 games with the Blizzard.

JASON HUNT (FB/LB) - Taking an all-af2 season by storm after a previous training camp stint with the Lightning in 2006, Jason Hunt was one of six (af2 league-high tying) Lightning players named to the All-af2 team last year after leading the Lightning with 11.5 sacks, breaking the single-season team record previously set by Aubrey Dorisme (8.0 sacks, set in 2006). The Modesto, Calif. native led the Lightning with 13.5 tackles for loss, ranking eighth in the af2 and registered 52.5 tackles, placing fourth on the team.

CARL WALKER (LB) - The former Miami Hurricane returns for his second season with the Lightning after garnering an All-af2 selection as a rookie. Walker ranked third on the Lightning with 55 tackles and tied for third on the team with eight pass breakups, primarily serving the team in the "jack" linebacker position. Walker's best output came against Spokane on April 28 as the Florida native tallied a team-high tying seven take-downs.

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