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The Collapse on I-4

Connor Akeman
Sunday May 17, 2015

A few weeks ago, I wrote a piece on the lack of signature, marquee road wins by the Tampa Bay Storm the last couple seasons, with an emphasis on rivalry, divisional games of course. For those who doubted, I simply… rest my case.

To properly write a postgame story, I need words. And honestly, I was left without any after the Storm fell 63-62 in overtime on Saturday night to the Orlando Predators. It was the choke of the century for the Storm, and this one won’t, and shouldn’t be forgotten for a very long time.

It was all but over on Saturday night. A fairly raucous Amway Center crowd of 10,971 began to file towards the exits after it looked like the Storm had sealed the game away not once, but twice. A small contingent of Storm faithful behind the team bench stood and applauded the efforts of their team. This was finally the Storm’s night. But then, everything changed.

The Storm led 48-28 at one point in the third quarter, and 55-34 early in the fourth. Storm DL Ryne Giddens recovered an Orlando fumble with seven minutes left in regulation with the visitors nursing a two-score lead. The game was over... right
After trimming the Tampa Bay lead to just eight points, the Storm recovered the ensuing Orlando onside kick. The crisis was averted... right?
The Storm would miss a field goal on the drive and give the ball right back to Orlando with an opportunity to tie. And the rest? Well, its history… Bad history. Orlando improved to 3-0 all-time against Tampa Bay in overtime. 
On a night filled with storylines, none will be bigger now than the Storm finding a way to lose this game. Tampa Bay WR T.T Toliver’s four touchdown performance, moving him into second place all-time in receptions and receiving yards, won’t be remembered. Storm QB Jason Boltus returning to his old home and passing for 279 yards and eight TDs also will be quickly forgotten. And it’s extremely unfortunate, because for 50 minutes on Saturday night, the Storm played their best road game in years.
Early in the third quarter, Storm head coach Lawrence Samuels was seen taking a bow after his team went up by 20 points and seemed to be in complete control. The Tampa Bay sideline was as jubilant as I’ve ever seen it. This team fights together, but just can’t seem to get over the hump. 
Right now, it seems like a lot more than 90 miles separate these two franchises. The Storm have now dropped four of the past five meetings with the rival Predators and don’t have a win in Orlando since 2013. The Storm haven’t won two consecutive games in the “War on I-4” series since they did it in 2011 and 2012. If the Storm have any hopes of earning a division crown for the first time since 2003, beating the Predators is sort of a must.
First place, gone. Bragging rights, gone. But more importantly, rivalry… gone? The history and heated play says otherwise, but right now? What they call the City Beautiful in Orlando owns what many still see as an AFL powerhouse in Tampa Bay. It’s tough to watch.

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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