Game Preview: Storm vs. Orlando

Jul 7, 2015 Tampa Bay Storm

The Tampa Bay Storm (6-7, 2-1) hosts the Orlando Predators (8-6, 2-1) this Saturday, July 11 at AMALIE Arena in the 2015 season’s second installment of the “War on I-4.” 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 televised on Bright House Sports Network.

Saturday’s matchup with be the 57th meeting in series history, with the Predators leading the overall series 29-27. It will be the 25th time Tampa hosts the Predators, with the Storm holding a 13-11 record at home. Regardless of the season records, the teams always seem evenly matched, with both the Storm and Predators doing everything they can to win the coveted South Division title.

There are always many storylines heading into the “War on I-4” and this game is no different than any other. Earlier this season, the Storm found itself in overtime, losing to the Predators by a score of 63-62. Tampa dominated for most of the game, but relinquished a 21-point fourth quarter lead in the waning minutes of regulation. With that gut-wrenching loss lingering in its mind, the Storm will want to come out strong looking to exact revenge on the Predators.

The game also marks the return of quarterback Randy Hippeard, who played for the Storm during the 2013 and 2014 seasons. Hippeard has shown growth since last season, and is one of the top quarterbacks in the League; however with only seven games played, he will have to show that his early season play was not a chance occurrence. Hippeard returned from injury during week 14 to help lead Orlando to a 53-46 victory over the New Orleans VooDoo.

The Orlando offense will have to contend with a swarming Storm defensive backfield that has excelled under pressure. The backfield is led by all-arena candidate Alfred Phillips, who leads the League with 32 pass breakups and is second in tackles with 87.0. The Storm defensive line will also need to apply the pressure on Hippeard if it intends on forcing him to make mistakes. This year’s line did have some success against Orlando earlier this season, sacking Bernard Morris three times, including a strip sack by defensive lineman Brandon Sesay.

Again, the Storm offense will rely on a platoon of receivers that includes Julius Gregory and Kendrick Ings, both of which are AFL Rookie of the Year candidates. Gregory has turned into one of the League’s most dependable receivers, hauling in a touchdown in nine consecutive games. Ings continues to prove that he can be a playmaker by not only playing at the receiver position but also as the team’s kick returner. Ings has 60 kickoff returns for 1,069 yards and two kickoffs returned for touchdowns. They join veteran receiver T.T. Toliver, who leads the team with 83 catches for 1,135 yards and 26 touchdowns. Look for quarterback Jason Boltus to get all three of these receivers going early in order to get a jump on Orlando.

In a game that means so much to both teams, the Storm will do everything possible to get a win. The Storm controls its own destiny; a win will put Tampa back into the playoff picture and put it in a prime spot to win the South Division title.