Storm show fight but fall short against rival Predators
Props to you, AFL schedule makers. Not only did you manage to have the Tampa Bay Storm play two games in a span of five days, with a flight to and from Philadelphia squeezed in there, but you also chose Friday the 13th to feature the 60th edition of the “War on I-4." The undefeated Orlando Predators hosting the 30-point underdog, and winless Storm. What could possibly go wrong?
Well, surprisingly, not all was went bad for the Storm on Friday night. Everything considered, it was by the far the best played game of the year for the Storm. You’re probably thinking, don’t give them too much credit, the Storm did still lose the game 42-40 to drop to 0-6 on the season, but it was the most promising loss in a long time for the Storm. If those kinds of things do indeed exist.
First things first, the Storm looked like a completely different team with QB Jason Boltus at the helm. Boltus finished the game 27-of-46 for 254 yards and four touchdowns in his return. Boltus connected with WR T.T. Toliver for two of the Storm touchdowns, and WR Phillip Barnett for the other two. Toliver, with 115 receiving yards on Friday night, became the first player in AFL history to reach 5,000 yards with two different teams.
This was the smoothest looking the Storm offense has looked all year, no doubt. But once again, it just wasn’t enough in the end. Literally.
The key moment in this game really did come at the end when the Storm offense had a chance at the upset down 42-40 with the ball at midfield and 3:40 left on the clock. On 2nd and 4, the Storm decided to throw not one, not two, but all three passes to the end zone. The first two missed badly, and the third? Well, it ended it up in the hands of Orlando DB Kent Richardson to seal the two-point win. The Predators FIFTH straight win over the Storm. Not to be forgotten in the questionable play-calling and dreadful execution at the end of the game, was Storm head coach Lawrence Samuels burning a crucial timeout on that final drive that prevented the Storm from having any chance at all on the ensuing drive by the Predators.
As the 12,971 at Amway Center rose to their feet on 4th down and then began to celebrate the game-winning interception, yet another group of dejected Storm players and coaches made their way back to the visitors locking room. A small handful of Storm faithful that made the trip stood in disbelief.
This was a big step in the right direction, and let’s face it, the Storm need Boltus from here on out, but with efforts like the one Friday night, this team just might be able to salvage something positive from this season.
Close, but no victory cigar yet again for the Tampa Bay Storm.