Storm Secure Home Playoff Game With Yet Another Thrilling Win Over Valor
TAMPA BAY - For the first time since 2010, the Tampa Bay Storm will host a playoff game on their own turf. Escaping with a thrilling 55-51 win over the Washington Valor on Saturday night at Amalie Arena, the Storm improved to 8-2 and picked up their fourth straight victory over Washington to wrap-up the season sweep.
“We are pleased to be 8-2 at this juncture,” said Storm head coach Ron James. “We didn’t play a clean game by any means, we gave them a lot of big plays and made it a lot more interesting than it had to be. But at the end of the day we got the win, we put it in the right column and move forward.”
The Storm led 34-31 at the end of the first half after a series of odd sequences on both sides of the ball. With just six seconds remaining, Storm WR Kendrick Ings made a nice touchdown catch to give Tampa Bay a 34-25 lead. However, the ensuing kickoff was returned for a touchdown at the buzzer by the Valor’s Charles McClain to again cut the deficit at halftime.
Ings, voted MVP of the game, finished with 287 all-purpose yards and scored three touchdowns. He added 161 kickoff return yards, taking one all the way to the endzone in the first quarter. Ings led all receivers with 111 yards receiving on 11 receptions.
“We said all week that we needed to clinch home field advantage in the playoffs. We needed to stay focused,” Ings said. “We made it tough on ourselves once again, but we came out on top so that’s good.”
Tampa Bay improved to 5-0 when leading at halftime this season but like the majority of the team said afterwards, again found a way to make it difficult at the end.
After being shutout in the third quarter, the Storm trailed by ten, 51-41, with just minutes remaining in the fourth quarter. A Randy Hippeard touchdown pass to Michael Lindsey trimmed the Valor lead to just three with 40 seconds remaining.
The Storm would need to recover an onside kick, and they did.
LaRoche Jackson recovered the pivotal onside kick to give the Storm a chance to take the lead and give Randy Hippeard an opportunity to do what Randy Hippeard does in 2017. Win games late.
“That’s Randy. We come to expect that he’s going to be cool under pressure in the one-minute drill and he continues to be so,” James added.
A 4-yard touchdown pass from Hippeard to Ings with ten seconds on the clock sent the 9,913 fans at Amalie Arena into hysteria and the Storm into a first-round playoff game on the same very field.
Special teams played a large role in the game as the Storm scored 20 points in the first quarter despite only ONE positive yardage play on offense. Ings contributed with a 56-yard kickoff return and Michael Lindsey scooped up a live ball off the net for another touchdown.
Hippeard finished 24-for-37 with 250 yards passing and one interception.
The Storm will host a first-round postseason game on Monday, August 14th but they still have the regular season to finish up and a top-seed still to chase.