Stephen Wasil completed 23-of-37 passes and threw for 391 yards and four scores, in a valiant effort that fell just short as the Tampa Bay Storm dropped the regular season finale on Saturday night 63-53 to the Spokane Shock at Spokane Arena.
Had the Storm come away with a victory, the team would have qualified for the playoffs, but instead Tampa Bay concluded its season with a record of 8-10, while the Shock wrapped up the campaign at 10-8, while also failing to clinch a postseason berth.
Much of Spokane’s success on the night was credited to signal caller Kyle Rowley, who connected on 24 of his 33 passes for 245 yards and six touchdowns. He also rushed for an additional score, while Wasil padded his performance through the air with three supplemental touchdowns on the ground.
Wasil got the Storm out to a fast start and an early lead, echoing the pre-game sentiments of head coach Dave Ewart, as he connected twice in the first quarter to give Tampa Bay a 13-7 lead after the first frame.
His primary target on the night again proved to be wide receiver Joe Hills, who led all receivers in the game with 215 yards and who also owned a team-best three touchdown receptions. His performance was complemented by teammate Prechae Rodriguez, who reeled in a team-leading 11 receptions for 134 yards.
The Storm duo was contested only by Shock receiver Adron Tennell, who had four touchdown catches in the game on 10 receptions for 140 yards. Steven Black also contributed offensively for Spokane, catching five passes for 45 yards and a pair of scores.
Despite the Storm taking a modest six-point lead into the second quarter, Tennell proved largely responsible for a pair of late scores in the first half which not only gave Spokane its largest lead of the game up until that point, but also shifted the momentum in the hosts’ favor, that carried through throughout the remainder of the contest.
The third quarter was much like the first in that it provided for little scoring, but was crucial due to two Storm turnovers that allowed the Shock to maintain control of the game heading into the final 15 minutes.
With the Storm down by 12 at the start of the fourth quarter, Spokane scored to get the scoring started and then proceeded to alternate scores back-and-forth with the Storm. Although Tampa Bay matched Spokane score for score in the final period, a controversial Shock touchdown in which the ball appeared to go out of bounds before it was carried into the endzone emerged as the difference maker, leading the Shock to a final victory in front of the home fans.