The Tampa Bay Storm defense intercepted two Orlando passes on the night and turned a pair fumble recoveries into touchdowns in the fourth quarter en route to earning a 55-31 victory over the South Division rival Orlando Predators at the Tampa Bay Times Forum on Saturday night.
The contest marked the 49th installment of the storied War On I-4 Rivalry, with Saturday's edition ending a streak of three consecutive matchups between the clubs that were decided by two points or fewer.
Coupled with Jacksonville's loss on Friday night, Tampa Bay's victory propelled it into sole possession of first place in the South Division with a record of 5-3 and a game in hand, while also keeping the Storm undefeated at home this season.
"It was a divisional game, so it was good that we came out and got the win here tonight," Storm head coach Dave Ewart said. "We played well in the secondary, had some strong special teams play and had a good pass rush. Overall I was pleased with the way we took away some of the things that usually makes Orlando successful."
Quarterback Stephen Wasil completed 16-of-25 passes on the night to lead the Storm, finishing with 217 yards and six touchdowns. Matt Grothe relieved Wasil late in the game, completing half of his passes for 30 yards.
Tampa Bay's Prechae Rodriguez also continued his exceptional play in recent weeks, leading the team with three touchdowns on the night, while Amarri Jackson finished first among Storm receivers in both receptions and yards with 11 for 135, respectively. Chandler Williams stood out for Tampa Bay as well, scoring twice in the victory and hauling in four balls for 63 yards.
For as impressive as the Storm's offensive was, the team's defense and special teams play led the way.
Deonte Bolden and Rod Mosley each recorded interceptions in the first half, while Mark Jones and former Predator Frisner Nelson each recovered fumbles that led to scores.
As a result of the effort, the Storm took control of the all-time series lead, 25-24, between the teams and have now won five of the last six games against their in-state rival.
Despite the final score being what it was, Orlando did keep the game close through the first two quarters before Tampa Bay began to pull away.
Predators starting quarterback Justin Roper threw for 113 yards, but didn't find the endzone. He split time with former University of Florida standout Chris Leak, who completed nine of 17 passes for three touchdowns, while totaling 78 yards throughout the game.
TT Toliver emerged as the Predators' leading receiver on the night with eight receptions for 97 yards and a score. Bobby Sippio and Jarvis Williams had the other scores for Orlando, which has been held under 50 points in six of their past eight games on the season.
"I honestly can't say enough about how our guys played tonight," Chandler Williams said. "In the first half the defense kept us in the game and in the second half they did the same thing. It was a very important win going back on the road next week."