The Tampa Bay Storm came out last night attempting to earn its first victory of the season but fell short losing to the Cleveland Gladiators 70-63 in overtime.
The winning play came when Cleveland’s Arvell Nelson threw a 26-yard touchdown pass to Larry Beavers on the first possession of overtime and the game ended when Storm quarterback Jason Boltus threw an interception on Tampa Bay's possession.
Cleveland 4-4) has now won 11 out of 20 games against the Storm in their team matchup history.
With the Storm (0-7) leading 63-56, Nelson forced overtime throwing a 12-yard strike to Collin Taylor with just 10 seconds left, tying the game up 63-63.
Neither team grasped more than a single digit lead throughout the entire game. The Storm started the game off with a pass by Jason Boltus to T.T. Toliver for a 31-yard touchdown. The lead didn’t last long though.
Larry Beavers threw a 5-yard touchdown pass to Quentin Sims to tie the game at seven. This was followed by Nelson’s pass to Collin Taylor for a 6-yard touchdown. The Gladiators ended the first quarter leading the game 13-7.
The Storm tied it up 35-35 at the half closing it with a 2-yard touchdown pass to Julius Gregory. While the game was tied heading into the second half, the Gladiators would go on to outscore the Storm 21-14 in the third quarter putting them up 49-42 going into the fourth.
Boltus tied the game with a 20-yard touchdown pass to Toliver. The big turning point of the game though was when the Storm’s Cortez Stubbs intercepted Nelson’s pass in the fourth quarter which he returned 26 yards to the 7 yard line. It was his second interception of the season.
“I just wanted to come out and make a play,” Stubbs said. “We needed a turnover to get it back over to our offense so that we could stay in the game.”
Boltus capitalized on the turnover finishing it off with a 1-yard rushing touchdown putting the Storm up 56-49.
Taylor then followed with a score of his own for the Gladiators and tied the game back up 56-56, but it wasn’t long before Boltus fired a 33-yard touchdown pass to Julius Gregory, putting the Storm up 63-56 with just 54 seconds left in game play.
But Cleveland prevailed in overtime.
Boltus completed 30-of-46 passes for 351 yards and eight touchdowns, making it the first game this year a Storm quarterback has surpassed 300 yards passing.
Leading all receivers was future Hall-of-Famer T.T. Toliver who had 12 catches for 158 yards while also hauling in three touchdowns. Toliver continues his goal to catch Damian Harrell in the AFL record books.
The story of the night was the return of Storm wide receiver Julius Gregory who made an immediate impact bringing in seven passes for 99 yards and three scores.
Gregory says that at this point a win anywhere would be a turning point of the season.
“0 and 7 is just unacceptable,” Gregory said. “We have to find a way to get in the winning column and stay in the winning column.”
The Tampa Bay Storm will continue to look for its first victory of the season this Sunday against the Arizona Rattlers (6-2) at AMALIE Arena on Family Day.