The Tampa Bay Storm takes the field Friday night against the Philadelphia Soul, looking to stay relevant in the South Division race by overturning a streak of consecutive losses.
Although at 6-8, the Storm’s task to compete for a postseason berth seems more like an uphill climb, head coach Dave Ewart continues to keep a narrow focus, while also asking his team of just one simple request.
“We just need to compete,” Ewart said. “This is a big game for our playoff hopes, and I know we’ve struggled the last three weeks with a lot of new changes and a lot of guys hurt, so this is a difficult time for us right now and it’s a difficult part of our season.”
He acknowledged that the Soul, which boasts the AFL’s best record at 12-3, is a very good team with a lot of veterans, but appeared to be more concerned with how his own club prepares for the game, taking into consideration that it comes on a short week with one less day to practice.
“I don’t think it being a Friday game will have an effect,” Ewart added. “Last week no one was satisfied with what we put out here on the field, so the only medicine for that is to get back on the field as soon as possible. We tried to get in here and correct most of our mistakes all week, so we’ll come in [Friday] and see where we’re at.”
The Soul are coming off five consecutive victories, but even with that said, according to defensive back Riley Swanson, that poses no daunting threat to the team, which believes it can come away with a victory in front of the home crowd.
“We definitely feel confident,” Swanson said. “It’s arena football where anything can happen. Any given Friday, any team can win, so we’re going to have that mindset and we’ll be ready to go out and put on a show.”
As Ewart echoed previously, the Storm will have to be at its best in order to beat a very tough Philadelphia squad.
“They’ve got a talented team,” Swanson added. “They’re good on both sides of the ball, but the key to beating them is just to stay positive the whole game and not turn the ball over. If we play good fundamental football then we should be in it all the way until that last minute.”
“They’re probably the best team in our conference,” offensive lineman Tom Kaleita said. “They’re going to come in, they’re not going to give us any respect, so we have to take it to them.”
While the team is well aware of the threat the Soul’s offense poses, Kaleita said that on a more personal level, he is more concerned about containing Philadelphia’s defense.
“They’re fast and they’re strong so we have to be on our game for sure,” Kaleita said. “Our receivers have to run crisp routes and we have to protect Nick [Hill] since he might need a little extra time to throw.”
One thing is for sure though, and that is the Storm will have the advantage of playing within the friendly confines of the Tampa Bay Times Forum.
“We definitely have better odds when we’re at home,” Kaleita added, “but we can’t rely on that anymore. We need to just come out and do really well.”