Late Defensive Effort Leads Storm over Soul for Third Straight Win
Call it a streak! The Tampa Bay Storm, for the first time since early in the 2013 season, have won three consecutive games. This week’s 56-49 win over the Philadelphia Soul was even more important as the Storm returned to .500 on the season at 6-6. With the win, Tampa Bay now has at least solidified themselves as a legitimate playoff contender. While the Storm do have teams to catch, including the division leading Orlando Predators who the Storm trail by just one game, Tampa Bay has climbed back into the hunt with the recent surge.
“Great team win,” head coach Lawrence Samuels said. “When you’re dealing with a young team you wonder how they’re going to handle adversity. When adversity hit tonight we didn’t give up.”
Perhaps the most impressive part of Saturday night’s win for the Storm was how the team responded on the defensive side of the ball. Down 49-34 at one point in the third quarter, and with starting QB Randy Hippeard battling through another leg injury all night, the Storm looked just about hopeless.
“It just felt like a big Charlie-horse all down my leg,” Hippeard said. “I didn’t know if I was going to come back in.”
While Hippeard did fight through and stay in the game for the Storm, a Joe Hills touchdown followed by a successful two point conversion trimmed the Soul lead to just 49-42. The two teams would again exchange TD’s with the most important coming from Storm WR T.T Toliver with just 46 seconds left in the game to give Tampa Bay a 56-49 lead.
Leading by just seven and with Philadelphia finding a way to drive the ball all the way to the Storm one yard line, an infamous buzzer-beating and heartbreaking loss for Tampa Bay was in sights. However, the Storm defense was able to come up with an improbable four down stop on the goal-line to preserve the win as time expired. Truly the most impressive defensive stand from the Storm in a very long time.
“Our defense was a championship-caliber defense out there and they came up huge tonight,” Hippeard said.
With the defense now playing better than ever before, and the offense slowly finding a nice groove behind Hippeard, this Storm team is capable of making an even deeper run. Both the division and a playoff berth are out there for the taking and the Storm, again for the first time in a very long time, look like a team on a mission.
“After the bye week we envisioned playing a good, physical game on the defensive side,” Samuels said. “We lacked that in the first half of the year when we started going on the losing streak. It’s a credit to those guys that they responded and their effort and enthusiasm on defense tonight kept us in the game.”
The “effort and enthusiasm” was appreciated by the Storm faithful of 11,062 in attendance, and now the fans have something they have been looking for the past couple seasons. A contending team.
“This puts us right back in the mix,” Hippeard said. “We have a big game against Iowa next week, so we need to get prepared for that and come out on all cylinders.” Tampa Bay does travel to Iowa next week for another chance at a key road win over a conference foe also battling for a postseason opportunity.