The Tampa Bay Storm (4-1) hosts the Washington Valor (1-3) this Saturday, May 20 at AMALIE® Arena on AMALIE Motor Oil Field on “Comic Book Night” presented by Shriners Hospital For Children. The Storm will look to improve its record to 5-1 and extend its winning streak to four games, its longest streak since 2014. Fans will be able to catch the action at TampaBayStorm.com. Kickoff is set for 7:00 p.m. ET.
The Storm met the Valor for the first time this past weekend, defeating the team 41-33. The game also marked the tenth time the Storm has faced a Dean Cokinos-led team, with the Storm now holding a winning record of 6-4 against him. The upcoming matchup will be the second of four meetings between the two teams this season.
At 4-1, the Storm is off to its best start since the 2001 season. That season, the Storm started out 7-0 and finished with a regular season record of 10-4 and a berth in the AFL postseason. It’s hard to point at one particular aspect of the Storm’s game that has led to the team’s hot start. Whether it is the one-minute drill, which the team has mastered to perfection, or an opportunistic defense, the team is ready for any obstacle thrown its way.
This past weekend, Storm quarterback Randy Hippeard continued his assault on the League, completing 21-of-30 passes for 205 yards and five touchdowns. The early MVP candidate has thrown 32 touchdowns and just two interceptions through five games. He leads the League in nearly every passing category including: yards per game (275.8), pass efficiency (128.1), passing yards (1,374) and passing touchdowns (32).
Hippeard’s success under center has contributed to one of the most potent offenses in the League. Storm receivers Joe Hills and LaMark Brown have proven to be problems for opposing defenses and it has led them into the top-10 of nearly every single receiving category. Not to be left out is dual-threat receiver Kendrick Ings who is second in the League in all-purpose yards with 761 and he’s averaging 152.2 yards per game. All three receivers make up the most all-around receiving corps in the AFL.
On the defensive side of the ball, the defensive backfield has proven to be a nightmare for opposing offenses. The unit is dynamic and opportunistic. Newly acquired defensive back Paul Stephens has a nose of the ball and he made his presence known from the minute he put on the blue and gold. The five-year veteran has three fumble recoveries in just two games and they have all come at pivotal times for the Storm. Versus Baltimore he returned a fumble 46 yards for the score and this past weekend he dove on a fumble by Washington quarterback Erik Meyer. It proved to be the lead-preserving stop that the defense needed.
From the Valor side of the ball, the team is looking for answers. After an impressive 51-38 win over the Baltimore Brigade in its first ever game, the team has lost three straight. The team has shown a pattern of starting out hot and it has held the lead going into the second half every game, up until it ran into the Storm this past Saturday. Washington’s offense was held to just two offensive possessions in the first half, the fewest by any team in a half in League history.
If it’s to win, the Valor will need to jump start its offense and hope that its defense can prevent the Storm from getting into a rhythm, which is easier said than done.
Either way, the fans in attendance will be treated to a hard and physical battle on the field. On one side is a team desperate for a win, while on the other there is a team looking to improve to 5-1 and extend its win streak to four games.