Nick Hill threw for five touchdowns, including one to receiver Joe Hills that put the Tampa Bay Storm up by three late in the game, before the Philadelphia Soul cashed in on a Tampa Bay miscue in the waning seconds to come away with an 83-79 victory on the Amalie Motor Oil Field at the Tampa Bay Times Forum on Friday night.
The Soul, which own the Arena Football League’s best record at 13-3, won its sixth straight game and second consecutive contest over the Storm in 2012, while Tampa Bay dropped to 6-9 on the year, with Friday night’s loss extending the team’s season-high losing streak to four games.
“That’s the best team out there, and our guys fought, and we had a chance to win it there at the end, but we just didn’t make the play,” Storm head coach Dave Ewart said. “That’s the difference between winning and losing.”
After Hills hauled in his last of two touchdowns on the night with 37 seconds left to give Tampa Bay a 79-76 lead, Storm defensive back Riley Swanson nearly sealed the victory with an interception on Philadelphia’s ensuing possession, but couldn’t find the handle on the ball as it fell to the ground and afforded the Soul another opportunity to complete the comeback.
On the next play, Philadelphia quarterback Dan Raudabaugh finished the job by connecting with Donovan Morgan for the game-winning touchdown that held up after a last-ditch effort by the Storm fell short.
Raudabaugh concluded his night by going 24-of-37 for 415 yards and 11 touchdowns, that is the ninth 400 yard game performance this season. Hill, meanwhile, in addition to his five touchdown passes on the night, also rushed for three scores and went 27-of-42 through the air for 313 yards.
“He’s a franchise quarterback who puts the ball in all the right spots,” Ewart added. “We knew exactly who we were getting when we signed him, we just need to do a better job of keeping him standing up.”
Storm wide receiver Michael Lindsey emerged as the team’s leading playmaker in the absence of stars Amarri Jackson and Prechae Rodriguez, recording nine receptions for 105 yards and a pair of touchdowns, as well as another score off a kickoff return. De’Cody Fagg also contributed a touchdown and finished second on the team with eight catches.
Each were outperformed only by Philadelphia’s Tiger Jones, who led all receivers in the game with six scores and 204 yards off of 12 receptions, and Morgan, who added nine catches for 191 yards and four touchdowns.
“I worked real hard in practice to come back,” said Lindsey, who earlier this week was activated off of Injured Reserve. “My main goal was just to hold on to the ball, even if I was in pain, just hang on to the ball and make plays.” Tampa Bay’s showing Friday night indicated a vast improvement from the last time the two teams met, back on April 20 when the Soul defeated the Storm by a 35-point margin, 83-48, at the Wells Fargo Center.
Despite finding themselves down 21-7 at the end of the first quarter, the Storm fought back to take its first lead of the game midway through the second quarter and used the advantage to carry the momentum throughout the remainder of the game.
Whereas Philadelphia came out strong and set the tone for much of the first half, the second half proved to be more of a back-and-forth scoring affair that saw neither team lead by more than seven points, with the exception of the Storm’s 10-point lead to open the final quarter.
“It’s tough right now,” Ewart added. “But like I told the guys, there’s a big difference in our team now than there was eight weeks ago when we played them, so I think we grow as a team and we see where we were and it shows how good we’ve gotten. But we’re without certain guys, and we’re down to our fourth and fifth position [on the depth chart] so that’s just kind of where we’re at right now.”