The Tampa Bay Storm’s road woes continued Saturday night, as the visitors dropped a 71-61 contest to the division-rival Jacksonville Sharks at the Jacksonville Veterans Memorial Arena.
The loss kept Tampa Bay winless on the road this season, while Jacksonville improved to 6-5 on the year to jump the Storm and move into sole possession of first place in the South Division standings.
The Sharks came out strong from the opening kickoff behind the leadership of starting quarterback Bernard Morris, who completed 17-of-28 passes for 259 yards and six touchdowns through the air. He also added a pair of scores on the ground, including one in the first quarter that put the Sharks out to a 20-0 lead.
With the Storm offense sputtering early, signal caller Nick Hill came into the game midway through the opening period in relief of starter Stephen Wasil, and quickly rejuvenated Tampa Bay’s offensive attack.
After Wasil failed to complete any of his seven passes on the evening, Hill connected on 25-of -2 attempts for 321 yards and four touchdowns, matching his total for average passing yards from last season in Saturday’s abbreviated performance.
Tampa Bay registered zero yards in total offense up until its final drive of the first quarter, in which Terence Crosby punched one in from inside the five-yard line to cut the deficit to 13 heading into the second frame.
Although the Storm never led in the contest, Hill engineered a valiant comeback effort, in which he brought Tampa Bay to within seven during the second quarter.
Chandler Williams led all receivers in the game with 11 receptions for 161 yards and three scores. Williams’ touchdown total on the night was matched only by Jacksonville’s Bobby Sewall, who recorded seven catches for 130 yards.
Amarri Jackson emerged as the only receiver in the game to finish in triple digits in receiving yards, as he racked up 103 yards and one touchdown.
Terrance Smith and Jamarko Simmons also each had a pair of scores on the night for the Sharks.
With Jacksonville leading 47-27 going into the third quarter, Crosby found the endzone again to bring the Storm to within two touchdowns before Jackson cut the deficit to just seven.
The Sharks countered, however, with a pair of unanswered scores that gave them a 21-point lead heading into the final quarter.
Hill, though, would once again lead the Storm back, scoring three times in the fourth period while the Sharks mustered only a field goal to bring the score to 64-61 late in the game. Morris sealed it with a rushing touchdown with under a minute to go to give Jacksonville a season-high third consecutive win.