SPOKANE, Washington – The Spokane Empire (7-2, 6-1) will face the Sioux Falls Storm (8-1, 6-1) in Week 12 of the 2017 Indoor Football League regular season at the Denny Sanford Premier Center with a 5:00 pm PST kickoff.
In a highly anticipated rematch, these top two teams clash for the first time since the 2016 United Bowl where the Storm defeated the Empire 55-34. This upcoming contest will be the third time these two have met, with the Storm winning both prior games, one in Spokane and one in Sioux Falls.
The United Bowl matchup saw Storm quarterback Lorenzo Brown have a stellar night accounting for seven total touchdowns, four passing and three rushing. Brown's offense racked up 319 total yards in a balanced attack against the Empire defense.
Recently, the Empire are coming off of a hard fought game against the Salt Lake Screaming Eagles where Spokane narrowly avoided overtime in the final seconds. The Empire denied a Salt Lake two point conversion with two seconds left to win 31-29.
Sioux Falls experienced a rare loss being defeated by the Wichita Falls Nighthawks 36-44 last Saturday. The Storm weren't too late to shake off their 11 point deficit scoring a field goal with 12 seconds left, but their special teams could not recover the onside kick. The Nighthawks would run the clock out for the win.
Brown only passed for 98 yards in the game, missing the century mark for the first time since Week 1. Perhaps the running game is more of the focus now, as two members of the Storm are tied for the top spot as leading rushing touchdown scorer. Brown currently holds the honor with his running back, Robbie Rouse.
It will be interesting to see how much running Sioux Falls attempts to do against Spokane, as the Empire currently lay claim to the best run defense in the league. J.D. Griggs and company are only allowing 43.1 rush yards per game. Not to be outdone, Sioux Falls is right behind at 48.7 ypg.
Of course, Empire quarterback Charles Dowdell is no stranger to the run game either. Dowdell now ranks fifth in rushing yards per game. Mulku Kalokoh is also starting to creep up the leaderboard as well, and this Storm defense should be a great test for the veteran. Should Spokane opt for the passing game, beware of the Storm defensive backs. Sioux Falls lead the league in interceptions with 18 on the season.
As far as who these ball hawks are, keep an eye on both Elijah Fields and J'Vontez Blackmon. The duo combine for 8 of the 18, with Fields being the team leader at five, and Blackmon catching the most recent one last Saturday. On the ground, Sioux Falls' leading tackler is linebacker Tyler Knight, who averages 8.7 tackles per game. Knight's season total is up to 78 after his efforts against Wichita Falls last week.
Defensively for the Empire, Griggs is the IFL sack leader with 8.5 on the year. Nick Haag is tied for fifth on the list with 4 sacks. As a unit, the Empire are the only team in the IFL that limits opposing offenses under 200 yards per game. This game between the current conference leaders looks to be one that lovers of defensive football will cherish.
Sunday'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.