Predators win shootout over rival Tampa Bay Storm, 69-62
Sunday July 12, 2015
Orlando Takes Down Division Rival in Second Edition of “War on I-4”
TAMPA – July 11, 2015 – The Orlando Predators (9-6) emerged with a 69-62 victory in a back-and-forth battle with the division-rival Tampa Bay Storm (6-8) in front of 15,835 fans at Amalie Arena on Saturday evening.
Trailing 62-61 with 42 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter, the Predators regained possession and methodically drove down field as quarterback Randy Hippeard connected on three straight pass attempts to put the Predators within five yards of the end zone. Facing 1st-&-Goal, fullback Michael Simons took a handoff and plowed through the Storm interior, toppling over the goal line for the go-ahead touchdown with 20 seconds remaining on the clock.
Inches proved to be the difference as the Predators defense denied Tampa Bay on its final drive to seal the win. Storm quarterback Jason Boltus completed passes for gains of 10 and 26 yards to give the Storm 1st-&-Goal from the 10-yard line with six seconds remaining. Boltus took the snap and fired a completion to Julius Gregory, but Predators defensive back Rod Issac put a hard hit on the wide receiver, taking him down just shy of the goal line as time expired to cap the victory.
Hippeard completed 24-of-33 attempts (72.7%) for 346 yards and seven touchdowns on the night, spreading the wealth as he hooked up with five different receivers for scores. Brandon Thompkins and Larry Brackins each hauled in two scores on five receptions, as Thompkins collected 87 yards while Brackins gained 54 yards. Kendal Thompkins paced the group with seven catches for 87 yards and one touchdown. LaMark Brown registered another five catches for 95 yards and a score. Offensive lineman Ryan Cave added an 11-yard touchdown reception. On the ground, Michael Simons rushed twice for six yards and two scores.
Defensive end Meshak Williams posted 6.5 tackles, including two sacks and two forced fumbles. Linebacker Terence Moore posted 5.0 tackles while adding an interception. Defensive back Rod Issac notched a game-high 8.5 tackles and one pass breakup.
The Storm jumped out to an early 7-0 lead off a one-yard quarterback sneak by Jason Boltus that was set up by a 40-yard reception by wide receiver Emery Sammons on the first play from scrimmage. Orlando swiftly tied it on its first series of the game as Hippeard launched a 31-yard touchdown pass to Kendal Thompkins, who secured the over-the-shoulder catch in the right corner of the end zone.
Wide receiver Kendrick Ings regained the lead for Tampa Bay moments later by returning the ensuing kickoff 56 yards for a score, but Brandon Thompkins answered with a big play of his own on the next snap. The fleet-footed wideout secured a short reception on a hitch before turning up field and eluding a defender as he raced 45 yards to the end zone. Despite the score, a missed PAT left the Predators trailing, 14-13.
Orlando’s defense dug its heels into the turf and denied the Storm a series later, forcing a turnover on downs on four plays following an incomplete fourth down attempt. Larry Brackins converted the turnover into points as he made a leaping four-yard touchdown reception before crashing into the boards to regain the lead for Orlando. A fumbled snap led to another missed PAT, resulting in a 19-14 lead for the Predators at the end of the first.
The two teams continued to trade scores throughout the second quarter. Tampa Bay would take a 21-19 lead early in the period as Boltus converted a fourth-down with a 27-yard scoring toss to wide receiver T.T. Toliver. On the following drive, Hippeard marched the offense into the red zone with three straight completions before scoring off a one-yard pitch to Brandon Thompkins to put Orlando back on top, 26-21. The Storm went ahead 28-26 a series later as Boltus connected with Toliver on a 36-yard touchdown pass.
Orlando matched the score again off a four-play, 38-yard drive that ended in a one-yard touchdown run by Michael Simons, resulting in a 32-28 Orlando lead. Tampa Bay went ahead on its next series as Toliver caught a 14-yard touchdown pass, but a missed PAT left the Predators trailing by just a point, 34-33.
Orlando regained possession with under two minutes remaining in the half and drove down the field on three plays. With 47 seconds remaining in the half, Hippeard eluded pressure and fired an 18-yard pass touchdown pass to Brandon Thompkins to take a 40-34 lead. The Storm recovered Orlando’s onside attempt on the ensuing kickoff and converted the short field into points off a 13-yard reception by Toliver, but another missed PAT left the game tied 40-40 with 36 seconds remaining in the half.
On the first play of the ensuing Predators drive, Hippeard was stripped from behind by defensive end Everett Dawkins, who managed to recover for the Storm at Orlando’s two yard-line. The Predators defense stood its ground, executing a goal-line stand by holding the Storm out of the end zone as the clock ran out in the half.
Orlando took a 47-40 lead coming out of the half as Hippeard lofted a pass over the middle on a screen to 335-pound offensive lineman Ryan Cave, who corralled the pass with one hand before running untouched to over the goal line from 12 yards out. The Storm would score on its next drive off an 18-yard catch by wide receiver Emery Sammons, but defensive end Calvin Fance blocked the PAT attempt to keep Orlando on top, 47-46.
The Predators offense stalled a series later, turning the ball over on downs after five plays. Tampa Bay would capitalize on the turnover, taking a 53-47 lead off a 10-yard touchdown reception by Julius Gregory.
Facing 4th-&-10 a series later, Brackins hauled in a 13-yard pass but had the ball knocked free by a defender and the fumble was recovered by Tampa Bay. Predators linebacker Terence Moore promptly responded on the next play from scrimmage, as he tipped a pass over the middle and came down with the interception. Two plays later, Orlando regained the lead as Hippeard fired a 10-yard touchdown pass over the middle to Brackins for a 54-53 lead.
Orlando’s defense managed to hold the Storm out of the end zone on the next series, but Tampa Bay would take a 56-54 lead off a 26-yard field. On the next play from scrimmage, LaMark Brown hauled in a short reception and shrugged off a would-be tackler before streaking down the left sideline for a 41-yard touchdown to put Orlando back on top with 3:25 remaining in the game, 60-56.
The Storm had a short field to work with on the ensuing drive after recovering Orlando’s onside kick attempt. Boltus would score on a one-yard quarterback sneak, resulting in a 62-61 lead for Tampa Bay following an unsuccessful two-point conversion. From there, the Predators offense would regain possession and set out on its game-winning drive to seal the victory.
The Predators travel in Week 17 to take on the Cleveland Gladiators on Saturday, July 18 at 6:00pm EST. The matchup will be nationally broadcast live on CBS Sports Network. For all the latest news and updates, visit OrlandoPredators.com and follow the team on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
RUSSELL ATHLETIC OFFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE GAME
Orlando QB Randy Hippeard
RIDDELL DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE GAME
Orlando LB Terence Moore
J.LEWIS SMALL PLAYMAKER OF THE GAME
Orlando WR Brandon Thompkins
CUTTERS CATCH OF THE GAME
11-yard touchdown reception by Orlando OL Ryan Cave (Q3 | 11:16)
AFL HIGHLIGHT OF THE GAME
56-yard kickoff return for a touchdown by Tampa Bay WR Kendrick Ings (Q1 | 10:44)
ABOUT THE ORLANDO PREDATORS
The 2014 South Division Champion Orlando Predators enters its 24th season as Central Florida’s most exciting and innovative professional sports franchise. Proud members of the Arena Football League, the Predators have achieved unprecedented success on the field. Orlando has advanced to the AFL playoffs a league-leading 22 times in their history while securing seven conference championships, including two ArenaBowl Championship victories in 1998 and 2000.