Storm lose ArenaBowl XXX As Soul Complete Comeback
PHILADELPHIA - After pulling off the second greatest statistical turnaround of any regular season in AFL history, the Tampa Bay Storm found themselves winning a home playoff game for first the first time since 2010 and clinching a trip to their first ArenaBowl since that same season.
Unfortunately for the Storm, this ArenaBowl would be played against the Philadelphia Soul on the defending champ’s turf. 5-15 all-time against the Soul, 1-9 on the road, and 0-3 in 2017 entering the game on Saturday night, the Storm certainty had their work cut out for them.
Before ArenaBowl XXX began though, Storm QB Randy Hippeard, named the 2017 Arena Football League MVP on Friday, said this about facing the Soul once again.
“Anytime you get a full season to prepare for somebody, especially for the last game of the year, you’re going to tweak some things, do some little things different here and there, but at the end of the day, we are who we are and they are who they are. So we’ve got to execute and just bring it to the table.”
While the Storm looked much improved in comparison to previous meetings with the Soul, Tampa Bay finished where they were all season.
Leading 20-14 at halftime, and 20-7 at one point in the first quarter after an Alvin Ray Jackson pick-six, the Storm allowed a wide open Darius Reynolds 40 yard touchdown pass on 3rd down from Dan Raudabaugh to give the Soul a 21-20 lead. They never looked back.
Philadelphia went on a 37-14 run over the course of a 30-minute span to win their second straight championship, 44-40. Statistically, it was the biggest in-game turnaround in ArenaBowl history.
Soul rookie Darius Prince was named MVP of the game after hauling in two touchdown passes including three crucial tackles on special teams. Soul FB Mykel Benson had two key rushing touchdowns and was named Offensive Player of the Game.
For the Storm, QB Randy Hippeard finished the game 14 for 27 for 194 yards and two interceptions. By Joe Hills standards, the Storm’s stud WR had a quiet game with just five catches for 71 yards and one touchdown.
The game really turned from bad to worse for Tampa Bay when Hippeard was sacked in the endzone for a safety by Sean Daniels. It was the first ever fourth quarter safety in ArenaBowl history and it gave the Soul a commanding 37-27 lead.
While 13,648 confetti-covered fans jubilantly celebrated their team’s second straight ArenaBowl victory inside the Wells Fargo Center, a small gathering of Storm faithful made their way to the exits and the team slowly made their way to locker room.
Philadelphia was now the fourth franchise to win the ArenaBowl in back-to-back years.
For Tampa Bay, it was an accomplishment to remember. 2-14 to ArenaBowl in just one year. But again, the most storied franchise the league has ever seen… came up just a bit short. And now may have someone else coming for that title.