The Tampa Bay Storm (5-6, 2-1) faces the Cleveland Gladiators (7-5, 3-1) this Friday, June 19 at Quicken Loans Arena. A win for the Storm will put the team in second place in the South Division and give the team its first win streak of the season. Fans can listen to Jack Harris and Darek Sharp make the call for 1250 AM WHNZ and also listen live on the Lightning Power Play which can be found on the iHeartRadio app or TBLPowerPlay.com. The game will also be streamed live on ESPN3. Kickoff is set for 7:00 p.m.
This will be the third and final game of a three-game series versus the Gladiators. Tampa Bay lost the past two meetings and will be looking to exact revenge against the reigning American Conference Champions. It will be the 18th meeting overall between these teams, and the sixth in Cleveland. The Gladiators hold an overall winning record of 9-8 versus the Storm with a 4-1 home record.
After defeating the Jacksonville Sharks, the Storm will turn its sights to the Cleveland Gladiators, a team it has not had much success against in recent seasons. Cleveland holds a four-game win streak over Tampa Bay, dating back to the 2014 season. The Storm will do everything it can to avoid the season sweep and get back to a .500 record.
Last week the Storm offense went on a roll in the first half, scoring a total of 56 points; the highest scoring half in franchise history. However, the team would only score one touchdown in the entire second half. In what could be described as a “Jekyll and Hyde” team, look for the Storm to gain consistency in Cleveland. Offensively, the team has shown it can put up big numbers when needed. A key cog to the offense is rookie wide receiver Julius Gregory, who has had a breakout year. In the past three games he has 24 receptions for 272 yards and 10 touchdowns. The first-year receiver has proven to be a reliable target for quarterback Jason Boltus.
On the defensive side of the ball, the backfield has continued to show it is one of the best in the League. Five-year veteran Alfred Phillips has a nose for the ball, leading the team and the League with 27 pass breakups. He came up big in the fourth quarter this past weekend, knocking away a pass from Joe Hills on a key fourth down stop in the final minutes of play. The defensive line will have to deal with an elusive quarterback in Shane Austin, who has no problem running the ball if necessary. The team will rely on Everett Dawkins and the rest of the offensive line to prevent the rush. The team has a total of 23.0 tackles for loss on the season.
The Gladiators has a pass rush that can be a force. With 20 sacks on the season, the team finds itself tied for third place in the League. The Storm has shown ability to stop the pass rush this season, allowing 17 total sacks (seventh in the AFL). It should be noted though that five of those sacks came at the hands of the Gladiators. However, the team has seen some turnover on the offensive line with the additions of Tyler Moore and Jermarcus Hardrick, both of whom have increased the quality of play on the line.
Both teams have much to play for this upcoming week. Look for the Storm to prove it can be a consistent team and string together a streak of wins in what has been an up and down season. A win would prove that the Storm has the ability to be one of the top teams in the American Conference.