The third time was not the charm for the Tampa Bay Storm tonight, as they fell to the Jacksonville Sharks 63-16 at Jacksonville Veterans Memorial Arena.
Despite winning both of the previous two meanings, both of which were at Amalie Arena, the Storm was unable to complete the sweep. The victory secured a playoff spot for the Sharks (9-7), the second South Division team to clinch a berth after Orlando did the previous week.
Tampa Bay struggled in this game from the onset, as the Sharks quickly went up by two touchdowns off of a six-yard pass to Joe Hills and a three-yard run by Derrick Ross respectively. Kendrick Ings would help his team pull back to within seven points on a 31-yard touchdown pass from Jason Boltus, who went 27-for-35 on the night. However, that is as close as Tampa Bay would get for the remainder of the evening.
While a score of 14-7 was hardly alarming heading into the second quarter, Jacksonville began to pull away in those 15 minutes. Putting up 21 unanswered points, the Sharks were met only with a field goal, as Jacksonville held the Storm to one-touchdown half for the fourth time this season.
Things would cool down offensively for the Sharks in the second half, but things would never heat up for the Storm. Despite having the ball to start the third quarter, Tampa Bay could not find the end zone, ending the drive on a 4th and 22 incomplete pass from Boltus to T.T. Toliver.
That would be a trend for the Storm throughout the night, as the team finished 0-for-5 on fourth down conversions.
Emery Sammons would reel in the Storm’s lone touchdown of the second half, a four-yard pass near the end of the third quarter; the Sharks defense would shut out the Storm during the final quarter of play. The final 47-point deficit is the worst in franchise history.
A playoff berth for the Storm becomes even more difficult following this loss, though they are still not eliminated from contention. Tampa Bay will be competing with the Cleveland Gladiators for the final playoff spot in the American Conference, with the former currently holding a 6-10 record and the latter possessing a 7-9 record.
With this in mind, the Storm would need to win both of their remaining two games, and the Gladiators would need to lose both of their remaining two games in order for Tampa Bay to make the playoffs. The Storm will face LA and Orlando; the Gladiators will face Spokane and Philadelphia.
Tampa Bay will now return home to Amalie Arena to take on the Los Angeles Kiss next Saturday, August 1st, at 7:30 p.m. This will be the Storm’s final home game of the 2015 regular season.