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Surging Storm Prepare for Showdown with Top-Ranked Gladiators

Connor Akeman
Wednesday June 25, 2014

Four words the Tampa Bay Storm haven’t heard in nearly four years: "Five game winning streak." And now the “fix for six” drives the Storm right into the American Conference best Cleveland Gladiators. After a thrilling 35-34 win over the Orlando Predators on Saturday night, the now 8-6 Storm will travel to Cleveland on a short week to face off against the 12-1 Gladiators.

The third time was the charm for the Storm against Orlando, and with the win Tampa Bay tied the Predators at 8-6 for first place in the Southern Division. Once at a point where it looked like Orlando would run away with the division, Tampa Bay with the extended winning streak has put itself right back into contention. 
A key element to the Storm’s success and momentum of late has been the play of starting QB Randy Hippeard. Hippeard is 5-0 since returning from injury after the bye week and continues to make a case as to why he is one of the top quarterbacks in the league, ranking first in the AFL in total offense (3,416), third in total offensive touchdowns (85), and third in passing touchdowns (74).
 “I’m just doing whatever it takes to get into the end zone,” Hippeard said simply after the win against Orlando. 
While both the offense and defense highlighted an exciting win over the Predators for the Storm, Tampa Bay will face a test like none other this season against the Gladiators. At 12-1 on the season, Cleveland, to the surprise of many, has proven why it is one of the American Conference powerhouse teams this season. 
Widely known around the league now as the “Cardiac Kids,” the Gladiators have managed to win three games on last-second, buzzer-beating touchdowns this season. 
Cleveland will be led by QB Shane Austin, who has thrown for 71 touchdowns, 3,056 yards and 10 interceptions this season. While the Storm defense and secondary has been impressive the last couple weeks, it will be vital for Tampa Bay to shut down the long ball Austin and his receiving core will be looking for. 
Overall, it really has been an up and down season for the Storm. Once, they were on a five-game losing streak. Now, they're on a five-game winning streak. But one thing is for certain. A win in Cleveland on Friday will truly be monumental for Tampa Bay during this run. While it’s a tall order, the Storm offense is clicking and the defense has been solid.
Upset brewing in Cleveland?

Connor Akeman is a freelance sports writer and aspiring radio broadcaster who resides in Tampa, FL. A Tampa native, he considers himself emotionally invested in the Rays, Buccaneers, and Lightning by enjoying season tickets to all three teams. He has followed the Storm since the early Tim Marcum days and can remember attending his first ever Arena Football game in 2007. Studying Mass Communications/Journalism, Connor graduated from the University of South Florida in May 2017. He has spent time with and has been published by the Orange County Register in Anaheim, CA as well as other outlets. He currently contributes to of SB Nation. You can follow Connor on Twitter @ConnorAkeman.
The opinions expressed in the article above are only those of the writer, and do not necessarily reflect the thoughts, opinions, or official stance of ArenaFan Online or its staff, or the Arena Football League, or any AFL or af2 teams.
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