It seemed only fitting that the Tampa Bay Storm would end its 2015 season against its most bitter rival. And while the Storm found itself looking for revenge, the team would eventually fall to the Orlando Predators 59-40 in their regular season finale.
Between twice before, Tampa Bay looked to avoid the sweep by this season’s South Division champions. And despite having a playoff spot locked up, Orlando did not rest any of its starters, bringing out their full force for the latest installment of the biggest AFL rivalry.
The Storm struggled from the onset of this game, receiving the ball to start things off and its first two drives ending in turnovers. In contrast, the Predators were firing on all cylinders early, with QB Randy Hippeard connecting with WR Larry Brackins twice in the first quarter to give Orlando a 14-0 lead heading into second quarter.
It was in the second frame when the Storm came alive, stringing together three consecutive scoring plays where Boltus found Sammons, Toliver, and Gregory in the end zone respectively. Gregory would finish the game with 14 receptions for 128 yards and three touchdowns, surpassing 1,000 receiving yards on the season with 1,030.
Despite the loss, the offense was a noticeable bright spot in the evening. WR Kendrick Ings also joined the 1,000-yard club with Gregory and Toliver after finishing the night with 63; this is the first season since 2011 where the Storm have had three receivers with over 1,000 yards in a season.
For his part, Boltus went 26-of-45 for 300 yards and five touchdowns. He surpassed Shane Stafford to have the second-most passing yards in a single season (5,025), and his five passing touchdowns gives him the second-most passing touchdowns in a single season with 98.
But this offensive success for the Storm was not enough to capture a victory, as Orlando was able to match it step-for-step. Hippeard went 23-of-30 for 255 yards and six touchdowns while getting support on the ground from Brackins and Michael Simons.
Orlando would pull away definitively in the second half, putting up 27 points to the Storm’s 13. Tampa Bay would only manage to snag the lead once during the entire match following a forced fumble, which the Storm recovered and then promptly turned into a scoring drive. That was one of few mishaps on the night for the Predators, who were able to recover and claim a victory.
The Predators will face Jacksonville at home next week in the first round of the playoffs, while Tampa Bay will now return home to regroup and look forward to 2016.