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Storm Drop Third Consecutive Home Opener, Fall Short Against Defending Champs

Connor Akeman
Sunday April 16, 2017

Number of the night not found in the box score? 2014. First 2-0 start to the season since 2014. First home opener victory since 2014. First win over the Philadelphia Soul since 2014. All of that, and more, was at stake on Saturday night at Amalie Arena. And for the Tampa Bay Storm, it just wasn’t meant to be.

Coming off an impressive performance last weekend in Cleveland, the Storm returned home for the first game of 2017 to host the defending ArenaBowl Champs, the Philadelphia Soul. While this game went much better than say… the last two Storm home openers (blowout losses to the Cleveland Gladiators and Orlando Predators respectively) the 56-52 defeat was still fairly disappointing after the road win last week.

The Storm’s compete level was certainly there on Saturday night, which is important to point out considering we didn’t always see that the past few years. For the first time in quite a while, I can confidently say the Storm simply lost to a better, more talented team.

The Tampa Bay offense, under the direction of quarterback Randy Hippeard now in his third stint with the Storm, scored eight touchdowns in the game. Storm kicker Mark Lewis missed 3 points after those touchdowns and the Storm offense failed two other times on two-point conversions. The first attempt was actually intercepted and returned for two points the other way by Soul DB Torez Jones. That’s FIVE points left on the field by Tampa Bay in a game they lost by yep, FIVE points. Unfortunately, I’ve typed this before.

I also don’t necessarily condone blaming or pointing out official’s blunders, but yikes. Not the best night for the guys in stripes, and I’m sure there is about 9,071 others in the Tampa Bay area that agree with me right about now. The most obvious mishap by the officiating crew came in the final quarter when Soul QB Dan Raudabaugh appeared to throw a backwards pass for a fumble that would be recovered by the Storm with the chance to take their first lead of the ballgame. The pass would be reviewed and the call on the field of an incomplete pass would stand, despite most replays showing the pass was thrown at least one full yard behind the Soul receiver. Oof.

Another bright spot for the Storm despite the loss, second-year WR Kendrick Ings. Ings had seven catches for 137 yards and two touchdowns. The versatile Storm WR also compiled 209 kick-return yards. The 346 all-purpose yards totaled by Ings is a new Tampa Bay Storm record for a single game.

The Storm will look to regroup and ready for a quick rematch against the Cleveland Gladiators next Saturday night at home. Game two of the four scheduled this regular season against the Gladiators. And hey, with a victory the Storm will already match their entire win total from last season and will have beaten almost the entire league in doing it. Wow!  

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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