It seemed that everything had been set up to go the Tampa Bay Storm’s way.
However, the New Orleans VooDoo had different plans.
With a loss by the Cleveland Gladiators earlier in the evening, the Storm was presented with the perfect opportunity to gain ground in the American Conference playoff race. But 27-straight points by New Orleans in the 3rd quarter would prove too much to overcome, and the Storm fell 65-53 to the VooDoo at the Smoothie King Center in New Orleans.
Similar to many of their other games, the Storm dominated the majority of the first half. The first three plays of the game saw Tampa Bay put up two touchdowns, a 41-yard pass to WR Julius Gregory and a kickoff live ball recovery by WR T.T. Toliver respectively. Rookie WR Phillip Barnett also played a huge factor in this successful start, and he led all receivers with 10 catches for 70 yards and two touchdowns.
It was the start most expected from this game, with the VooDoo entering this match with a 2-12 record and the Storm in the thick of the 2015 playoff race. Despite being underdogs, New Orleans certainly had every reason to play for pride.
Facing the possibility that tonight’s match could be the last home game in New Orleans for the franchise, the VooDoo certainly played with the heart of a team with more than two wins under its belt. That effort began to show itself towards the end of the first half, but became unrelenting at the start of the third quarter.
Starting out the second half with the ball, New Orleans quickly capitalized on the opportunity to take its first lead of the game. That would begin a series of plays which lead to 27 unanswered points for the VooDoo, while Tampa Bay could only find the end zone once throughout the entirety of the third quarter.
The Storm would get only as close as to within 11 points of the VooDoo, but any last-minute attempts at a comeback would be stifled. A bright spot within these final minutes would be WR Tristan Purifoy, who was signed last week and caught his first touchdown in a Storm uniform for the final score in this game.
This was New Orleans’ first win since May 2nd vs. the Spokane Shock, and Lawrence Samuels’ first-ever loss to the VooDoo as head coach of the Storm.
With three games remaining on the schedule, Tampa Bay will have to play with a must-win mentality in every single match. Although the Storm has a game in hand on the Gladiators, this loss to New Orleans guarantees that they will need Cleveland to lose at least one of its final two games in order to claim the final playoff spot.
Knocking Jacksonville out of the playoffs would involve the Sharks losing each of their final three games. Tampa Bay hopes to begin that process next Saturday, when the team travels to Sea Best Field to take on the Sharks at 7:00 pm.