"Deaf Valley" Silences Storm in ArenaBowl XXIII
Tampa Bay Storm head coach Tim Marcum had played ArenaBowl championships in Pittsburgh, Detroit, Orlando, Iowa, and at Tampa Bay... But never before had he seen anything like this.
The atmosphere at Spokane Tribe Field for ArenaBowl XXIII was absolutely electric, as 11,017 fans made life a living hell on the visitors with an amazing crowd noise that has earned this stadium the moniker of "Deaf Valley."
The five-time ArenaBowl champs jumped out to a 7-0 lead on the hosting Spokane Shock by taking the opening drive and running nearly seven minutes off the clock. It was capped by FB Ricky Ortiz running in his first score of the day. QB Brett Dietz had a stellar drive, going 7-for-9 for 41 yards.
However, from that point forward, it was all downhill for the Storm. On their next offensive possession, while holding a 7-6 lead, Dietz was sacked by DT Richard Clebert. He fumbled, and the pigskin was picked up by Spokane's DE Jeremy Geathers for the game's first turnover.
The troubles for the Tampa Bay offense didn't end there. On the next possession, Dietz was intercepted by DB Mervin Brookins, putting the Storm in a two stop hole that it would never totally recover from.
However, Tampa Bay had a fantastic chance at the end of the first half to try to switch the tide. After a WR DeAndrew Rubin touchdown catch, K Garrett Rivas recovered an onside kick. Tampa Bay capitalized and took the lead back at 28-27 following a rushing touchdown by FB Terrence Royal. However, Royal had a chance to fall down before the goal line, which could have run off more of the clock at the end of the half.
A disgusted Marcum knew that that blunder would probably come back to bite the Storm. Just one play later, with 0:11 remaining in the half, WR Markee White caught his fourth TD pass to put Spokane up 34-27. The visitors had a chance to put three points on the board at the end of the half, but Rivas' 41 yard field goal attempt was blocked as time expired.
The second half started just as ominously as the first half. After allowing Spokane can score a very easy touchdown to start the second half, Dietz threw his second pick of the game, this time to DB Travis Williams.
The next Spokane drive probably wrapped the game up. Three offside penalties on the Tampa Bay defensive line and a touchdown pass from QB Kyle Rowley to WR Huey Whittaker gave the Shock a 20 point cushion that would never be threatened.
The Storm continued to trade scores with Spokane for the rest of the game, but never got over the hump to draw closer than two scores.
The positive points of the game were all offensive. Dietz ended up completing 29-of-40 passes for 306 yards with four TDs and two INTs. The 29 completions was the second most in ArenaBowl history behind Kurt Warner with the Iowa Barnstormers in 1997.
WR Hank Edwards caught 11 passes, two shy of the ArenaBowl record, for 132 yards and two TDs. Edwards and WR Tyrone Timmons each had 100+ receiving yards, matching the feat of San Jose SaberCats' WRs Rodney Wright and Jason Geathers from ArenaBowl XXII.
Tampa Bay also accounted for 28 first downs, just one shy of the ArenaBowl record.
The Storm secondary was punished by Rowley all game long, as he threw for an ArenaBowl record nine touchdown passes on the day.
Tampa Bay dropped to 5-2 all-time in ArenaBowl championship games and to 5-4 as a franchise including its days as the Pittsburgh Gladiators.