TAMPA BAY – The Tampa Bay Storm (7-10, 2-3) travels across the state to face South Division rival Jacksonville Sharks (11-6, 5-0) in a regular season finale on Saturday, July 27. Kickoff is set for 7:00PM ET. Saturday marks the second time this season these teams have met, with the Sharks winning the first contest by a score of 64-55.
This will be the eighth meeting in series history between these two franchises. The Storm is 1-6 against the Sharks, with its lone victory coming last season in Tampa.
The teams battled at the Tampa Bay Times Forum for the Storm’s 2013 season opener. The game saw the teams going back-and-forth on several scoring drives until the Sharks gained the edge in the waning minutes of the fourth quarter. Sharks quarterback Bernard Morris threw two touchdown passes in the final 1:50 to seal the victory. Quarterback Adrian McPherson made his Storm debut and set a franchise record with five rushing touchdowns. This meeting will be a completely different game.
Coming into the final week of the regular season, both teams have already clinched a berth to the playoffs. Jacksonville clinched its fourth straight South Division title, in as many years, on July 6.
Tampa Bay clinched a berth to the post-season last week when the New Orleans VooDoo lost to Jacksonville. While the team is on a six game losing streak, the Storm will see a playoff game for the first time since it made an ArenaBowl run in 2010.
The Storm defense has been among the league’s best this season. With 40 turnovers gained through 17 games, Tampa Bay is sporting a +15 turnover margin, which is good for third in the AFL. The team is tied for the fifth-most interceptions in the league with 24. Chris Smith leads the team with eight picks this year, and will be aiming for his next this weekend against the Sharks.
The Storm defensive line has also started to come around, having recorded two sacks against the Pittsburgh Power this past Saturday. The defensive pressure forced a fumble which defensive end R.J. Roberts returned 48 yards for the touchdown.
Jacksonville is led by quarterback Bernard Morris and receiver Jeron Harvey. Morris leads the team in total offense, averaging 212.7 yards per game. Harvey averages 93.7 receiving yards per game and is the team’s leading scorer with 35 touchdowns.
With both teams in the playoffs, there stands a chance that they will meet in the first round depending on how the final week turns out. This game could be a preview of things to come.