The Tampa Bay Storm (0-1, 0-0) will travel to “The City of Roses” when it takes on the Portland Thunder (1-0, 0-0) this Friday, April 3 the Moda Center. This will be the first trip to Portland in franchise history for the Storm, and the first time the Thunder have hosted a AFL team from the state of Florida. Fans can listen to the game on 620 AM WDAE or watch live on the WatchESPN app. Kickoff is set for 10:00 p.m. EST.
This is the second meeting between these two teams and first in Portland. The Thunder holds a winning record of 1-0 versus the Storm. In their last meeting, the Thunder defeated the Storm by a score of 61-42.
Last week, the Storm dropped its home opener to the 2014 American Conference champion, Cleveland Gladiators, by a score of 60-44. The team looked sharp in the beginning of the game, but a series of costly mistakes proved to be the difference in the matchup. The team will look to improve on these mistakes heading into this week’s game with the goal of earning its first win of the 2015 season.
New Storm quarterback Jason Boltus made his debut in the blue and gold this past Friday night, completing 30-of-55 passes for 383 yards and six touchdowns. His 55 passing attempts were the second-most passing attempts in Storm single-game history, surpassing Shane Stafford’s 54 which he set versus New Orleans in 2005. Boltus’ 383 passing yards are the most passing yards in a Storm debut, passing Stephen Wasil’s mark, set in 2012. This week, look for him to spread the ball around, looking to hit all of his receivers.
One Storm receiver to keep an eye on this week is T.T. Toliver. Toliver is on the verge of becoming only the 17th player in professional football history to reach 1,000 receptions. With 989 catches for his career, he is 11 shy of 1,000. Toliver will join former Storm teammate and current head coach, Lawrence Samuels, as the only players in franchise history to reach 1,000 catches. He will also become the fourth player in AFL history to reach 1,000 receptions, behind Damian Harrell, Samuels and Chris Jackson.
The Thunder will be looking to build some momentum after earning its first win of the season. The team defeated second-year team, LA KISS, by a score of 42-37. It was also the first win for Mike Hohensee as Portland’s head coach. The Storm has had some success versus Hohensee, as it holds a winning record of 11-5 against him.
The Thunder defense has the ability to make some big plays when it needs to and the Storm offense will not be able to rest on its laurels. The team will have to battle a defense that wreaked havoc on the KISS offense. Last week, Portland’s defense had a combined eight pass breakups and two sacks. Protecting the football and the quarterback will be of utmost importance for the Storm.
On offense, the Thunder will be led by quarterback Kyle Rowley. Rowley, a five-year veteran, finished the night having completed 19-of-28 passes for 209 yards and five touchdowns. He’ll have a trio of receivers to utilize this Friday, each of which can do damage. This past Friday, Jamar Howard was Rowley’s favorite receiver, catching eight passes for 114 yards and three touchdowns.
Look for the Storm to come out with a fire in its eyes. After suffering a loss this past weekend, the team will look to rebound on the road in order to generate momentum for the long season ahead.