The “War on I-4” is a rivalry known throughout the Arena Football League for its intensity and unpredictability, providing an “anybody’s game” atmosphere no matter where the two teams are in the standings.
However, with first place in the South Division on the line, it was the Orlando Predators (4-4) that emerged victorious in overtime.
The flow of the game was back-and-forth throughout most of the first half. Tampa Bay (3-4) won the coin toss but chose to defer, and the Predators were quick to capitalize as QB Bernard Morris found Kendal Thompkins in the end zone to get Orlando on the board first.
Much as they have all year, the Storm responded quickly, putting up back-to-back touchdowns from Boltus to receivers Julius Gregory and T.T. Toliver. Boltus would find five different receivers in the end zone throughout the night as he threw for 279 yards and eight touchdowns.
During the first half, the Storm offense exploited a Predators defense that came into this game with the second-worst scoring defense in the league, allowing an average of 55.4 points scored each game. The unit also received a boost from its newest member, WR Emery Sammons, who scored his first touchdown in a Storm uniform on a 470-yard end zone-to-end zone pass in the second quarter.
The tides began to shift in Tampa Bay’s favor off of a huge defensive play by James Harrell, who scored a touchdown off of a net recovery for the second-straight game. That series put the Storm up 27-14, a lead the team would continue to pad until halftime, going into the break with a 41-28 advantage.
Things would cool off on the offensive side of the ball for the Storm during the second half, as just two touchdowns were scored throughout those two quarters. Tampa Bay’s defense would be put on the spot as the Predators offense came to life suddenly, scoring 27 points in the second half and overcoming a twenty-point deficit to force overtime.
Morris has a history of comebacks against the Storm. Prior to tonight, he led a comeback victory during the first round of the 2013 playoffs while playing at quarterback for the Jacksonville Sharks.
Tampa Bay struck first in the extra frame on Toliver’s fourth touchdown reception of the night; however, the defense was unable to stop Orlando from scoring, and another successful two-point conversion would give the Predators their fourth victory of the season.
Toliver had 10 receptions for 104 yards and four touchdowns. He also made his 1,035th career reception, putting him in second place all-time in AFL history and ninth all-time in professional football history.
Orlando had been forced into overtime situations twice before this season, losing both of those contests by a point. In overtime situations against the Storm, the Predators are now 3-0. Orlando leads the all-time series 29-27.
The Storm now sit in second place in the South Division, a half-game up on the Jacksonville Sharks. The team will return home to Amalie Arena to face the Philadelphia Soul (7-1) next Saturday, May 23rd.