The Tampa Bay Storm (4-5, 1-1) will head to Arizona to take on the Rattlers (7-2, 2-1) this Saturday, June 6 at U.S. Airways Center. A win for the Storm will put the team back at .500 and give the team its first win streak in 2015. Fans can listen to Jack Harris and Darek Sharp make the call for 1250 AM WHNZ. The game will also be streamed live on ESPN3. Kickoff is set for 9:00 p.m. EST.
This will be the 16th meeting between these two storied franchises and sixth in Arizona. Tampa Bay leads the overall series 10-5 and holds a winning road record of 3-2. The last time the Storm travelled to Arizona was 18 years ago, when the team suffered a 49-46 loss at the hands of the Rattlers. Over the course of the series, Tampa Bay has outscored the Rattlers by a margin of 95 points.
In what could be classified by some as two of the most dominating teams of different eras, the newest member of the “Five Ring Club,” the Arizona Rattlers, will face the team that set the Arena Football League standard for excellence on the field, the Tampa Bay Storm. While the records may be different, look for the Storm to come out firing on all cylinders with much to prove on both sides of the ball.
Defensively, the team got back to the basics last week versus New Orleans. After giving up 71 points to the Philadelphia Soul, the defense limited the VooDoo to six points in the second half, and just 28 total points. Defensive end Everett Dawkins is proving to be a force to be reckoned with. The former Florida State standout has at least one tackle for loss in five of the past six games. Dawkins leads the team with 6.0 tackles for loss and is tied for sixth in the League in the same category.
The Rattlers’ offense will also have to deal with a defensive backfield that is led by Plant H.S. (Tampa, FL) product, James Harrell. Harrell has become an early contender for the Defensive Player of the Year and has continued his assault on opposing offenses. Last week he reeled in two interceptions and fumble recovery. Harrell is fourth in the League with six interceptions on the season and has the second most takeaways in the League with 10 (6 – interceptions/4 fumble recoveries).
On the offensive side of the ball, the Storm will need to be on point and look to score on every possession. The team will be going up against a strong and opportunistic defense in Arizona. One of the team’s newest weapons on offense is wide receiver Julius Gregory, who enters the game having scored a touchdown in five consecutive games. Last week, Gregory led all receivers with nine catches for 74 yards and three touchdowns. Also, not to be overlooked is 12-year veteran T.T. Toliver., who enters the game ranked ninth all-time in professional football history with 1,045 receptions. Toliver has some experience versus the Rattlers, having played in eight games versus Arizona, hauling in 56 receptions for 744 yards and 16 touchdowns.
The Storm offensive line will have its hands full this week, going up against one of the top pass rushes in the League. The Rattlers have one of the best nose guard-mac linebacker combinations in the League in Anttaj Hawthorne and Tyre Glasper. Also in the mix is defensive end Cliff Dukes, who has an added incentive to play well against his former team. Dukes played for the Storm from 2008-11. This will be the first matchup between him and his former team.
Look for the Storm to come out fast this Saturday night looking to prove it can compete with one of the top teams in the League