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Watch Out League: Samuels puts league on watch, Storm get blown away by Steel

Connor Akeman
Saturday June 4, 2016

Season-changing… They said.

Momentum builder… They said.

Finally learned how to finish… They said.

After the Tampa Bay Storm knocked off the powerhouse that is the Arizona Rattlers less than a week ago at home, a cross-country trek to the Pacific Northwest to face off against the lowly, winless Portland Steel sounded like the perfect opportunity for the Storm to string together their first winning streak in nearly a year.

Instead, it turned into a humiliating and frankly embarrassing 68-35 blowout loss at the hands of the Steel. And while it was a completely unacceptable performance from Tampa Bay, can we really say it was shocking one?

Friday night marked the fourth time in nine games the Storm lost by more than thirty points. Ouch. But you really get the feeling this one had to hurt the most for a Storm team flying high after a shocking win the previous week.

So shocking in fact, that it prompted head coach Lawrence Samuels to say postgame, “This league is in trouble right now... We finally learned how to finish.”

It was a win so shocking that I actually believed him. The Storm finally pieced it all together against the Rattlers, and the close finishes and improvement in the weeks prior finally paid off. This was a team that was going to take off.

Problem is, nobody told the Portland Steel.

The Storm managed just a total of seven points in the first half, and were stopped four times by the Steel. In fact, the Storm were stopped on their first three drives of the ball game, including two fumbles by QB Jason Boltus who didn’t look himself the entire night. Tampa Bay would go on to turn the ball over six times in the game, and the Steel took full advantage by scoring a franchise record in points.

Boltus finished the game 27-of-45 for 303 yards and four touchdowns, but he threw a few costly interceptions that helped Portland cruise to victory early in the second half. Two of those four Boltus touchdown passes, however, went to Storm WR T.T. Toliver who seems like he is stamping himself down in the record books for something new every week at this point. Toliver became the second player ever to reach the 15,000-yard mark for his career in this, his 13th year in the league.

This was the “easy” one left on the schedule. The one that the Storm “had to have.” The winning streak that would propel the team to finish the latter half of the season strong. Don’t be fooled, the Storm are who we thought they were all along. And they made that very clear on Friday night.

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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