Defense leads the way as Storm cruise past Sharks
Historically speaking, the Tampa Bay Storm have struggled mightily against the Jacksonville Sharks. Before Saturday night’s 63-28 thrashing of the Sharks, the Storm held an all-time record of just 2-9 against their cross-state rivals. But wouldn’t you know, Tampa Bay has now won the last two matchups and in convincing fashion at that.
“Any time you play a divisional opponent it’s important to get a victory because of the tiebreakers that come down at the end of the year,” Storm head coach Lawrence Samuels said after the game. "My hats off to them the way we played."
While WR T.T Toliver’s four touchdown performance once again led the way for the Storm offensively, it was the defense that was truly special on this night. Tampa Bay managed to hold Jacksonville scoreless for nearly 20 minutes while the offense put together an impressive 35-0 run.
DBs James Harrell and Alfred Phillips efforts single-handedly crushed the Sharks. Harrell finished with an interception and fumble recovery, while Phillips led the Storm defense with seven tackles and a pick.
Through just about a third of the regular season, the Storm defense has been nothing shy of spectacular and has seemingly been improving week to week. While the Storm would still like to work out other kinks in their game, the defensive effort has certainly been refreshing to see.
“Defense causes turnovers and we’re putting points on the board,” Samuels said. “That’s what it’s all about... We’re going to continue to get better. Like I said at the beginning of the year, we’re a young team, we’ve got a lot of new guys playing for us and they’re playing hard for us and they’re competing for us. They never give up. We finished tonight.”
Is it easy to point out that the Storm’s now three wins have come against current bottom dwellers of their respective divisions? Or that the three wins have come against opponents with a combined win total of five games? Yes, of course it is. But I’m not going to go there. This win deserves to be celebrated. A good ol' fashioned beating of a hated division rival. That’s what this was. And it was nice to see.
“We are starting to show some signs of being a pretty good team in this league,” Coach Samuels said.
And maybe he’s right. The one thing the Storm have done on a consistent basis is improve from one week to the next. And it’s finally beginning to pay off.
If the Storm are really interested in proving me wrong, win this next game in Orlando. As if the first installment of this seasons “War on I-4” needed any more storylines, this game will likely decide who sits atop the South Division.
“We had to get a win this week,” defensive lineman Dexter Jackson said. “We couldn’t go into a bye week at 2-4.”
But for now, credit is given where credit is due and the Storm certainly deserve a ton of it after Saturday night’s win. Tampa Bay enters the first bye week of the season, and it does so holding its head high. I’m so impressed that I won’t even mention the Storm’s last win in Orlando was in April of 2013…. Whoops.