Big time players make big plays in big moments. That’s what James Harrell did on Saturday night for the Tampa Bay Storm.
The Storm defensive back intercepted two passes from New Orleans quarterback Brian Reader including a game-saving interception with the VooDoo inside the Storm’s 15-yard line with under a minute remaining in the game to lead Tampa Bay (4-5) to a 35-34 victory in front of 13,581 fans at Amalie Arena.
“He played big and huge for us,” Storm head coach Lawrence Samuels said. “Like I told him last week, it wasn’t him. I wanted him to challenge the receivers this week and he did. He challenged them.”
Harrell now leads the team with six interceptions and four fumble recoveries this season.
“In my mind, this is a rookie QB, the first thing he sees open, he’s going to throw it so I jumped the first thing I saw,” Harrell said.
The Storm offense was able to run out the final minute of the game and secure the team’s second win against New Orleans this year.
The defense came up big in the second half forcing turnovers on three of New Orleans’ final four drives. Linebacker Rick-J Hill, who led the team with nine tackles, came up with an interception.
Harrell also recovered a fumble inside the Storm’s 5-yard line in the third quarter after Storm defensive lineman Everett Dawkins forced a fumble.
“Our guys faced a lot of adversity tonight and we overcame it,” Samuels said. “Everytime we faced adversity someone stepped up and made a huge play for us.”
The difference in the game turned out to be a missed extra point by VooDoo kicker Garrett Lindholm after New Orleans (2-8) pulled within a point on a touchdown with 6:28 remaining in the fourth quarter.
New Orleans took over at the Storm 14-yard line at the one-minute warning in the fourth quarter and it was Harrell again who came up big for the Storm defense.
Dawkins’ forced fumble led to the Storm taking a 35-28 lead when Kendrick Ings made a nice catch over his shoulder in the end zone for a 29-yard touchdown.
The win broke a two-game losing streak for the Storm and moves the team’s record to 4-5. Storm wide receiver Julius Gregory, who led the team with nine catches and three touchdowns said the team went to practice this week with a different attitude after back-to-back tough losses.
“We wanted to let our fans know that last week wasn’t Storm football and it won’t happen again,” Gregory said. “We had a desire to win and fight.”
The Storm trailed 28-21 at halftime with both quarterbacks throwing interceptions and the offenses taking advantage of the turnovers. Tampa Bay held the final possession of the first half but came up empty when Boltus’ pass with two seconds remaining sailed out of the end zone.
Despite allowing the opening kickoff to be returned for a touchdown, the Storm led 14-7 after the first quarter after James Harrell came up with another big interception and the Tampa Bay offense turned it into seven points less than two minutes later on a pass from Boltus to T.T. Toliver.
It won’t be easy next week when Tampa Bay travels to Arizona to matchup against the three-time defending Arena Bowl Champions. Kickoff is set for 9 p.m.