Coming into week eleven, the Tampa Bay Storm (4-6) knew that stringing together back-to-back wins would be no easy task. Going up against the Arizona Rattlers (8-2), the winners of the last three ArenaBowls riding a three-game win streak, would be one of their biggest challenges of the season.
The challenge proved to be too great for the Storm tonight, as they fell to the Rattlers 69-46 in the team’s first trip to Arizona in 18 years.
Rattlers starting quarterback Nick Davila returned from injury after missing five weeks, but he showed no signs of rust as he threw for six touchdowns in the first half alone. It would take Davila a little while to adjust to the timing of the game, however, which allowed Tampa Bay to keep things close throughout the first quarter.
After the Storm were able to tie the game at 14 points-a-piece near the beginning of the second quarter, the Rattlers quickly responded and went on to score four unanswered touchdowns. The pivotal turning point of this game occurred early this quarter, when Boltus was picked off by Jeremy Kellem at Arizona’s 10-yard line.
Kellem, who had two interceptions on the night, shifted the momentum in Arizona’s favor for the remainder of the night.
Despite being down by 27 points at halftime, Tampa Bay continued to show heart and refused to give up. Opening the third quarter of play with the ball, Boltus connected with veteran receiver T.T. Toliver. The Storm defense would hold the Rattlers to just one touchdown throughout the entire quarter, but the offense was unable to capitalize as much as was needed, cutting the deficit to 48-26 heading into the final quarter of play.
Arizona’s offensive rhythm returned in the fourth, putting up 21 points with two passing touchdowns to WR Chase Deadder and a rushing touchdown from AJ Cruz. Deadder finished the night six receptions, five of which were for touchdowns. The Rattlers’ 69 points was the most scored by the team in the history of this series, and the most scored by the team this season.
Julius Gregory was the star of the Storm offense, as he extended his touchdown streak to six games. He finished the night with six receptions for 109 yards and four touchdowns. His 13 touchdowns on the season are good for second place on the team, with T.T. Toliver leading the pack with 22.
On defense, DB Alfred Phillips stood out with two pass breakups, increasing his season total to 21. He is currently tied for 7th all-time in Storm single-season history.
The loss puts the team at 3-3 when facing the Rattlers on the road, holding an overall winning record of 10-6 against the franchise.
Tampa Bay now sits 1.5 games back of both the Jacksonville Sharks and Orlando Predators for the division lead, as both teams currently hold 6-5 records.
The Storm will return home to Amalie Arena to take on the Jacksonville in a pivotal game Friday, June 12th, at 7:30 PM.