Storm prepare for biggest game of season

Aug 23, 2017 Bryan Burns

Kendrick Ings has had plenty of watershed moments during his football career.

There was the tryout with the Canadian Football League’s BC Lions in 2011.

In September of 2015, Ings was signed to the Detroit Lions practice squad but was released a couple weeks later.

In 2016, he was signed by the BC Lions for four months. Later that same year, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers grabbed him for their practice squad.

But on Saturday, Ings will take part in the biggest moment of his professional career when his Tampa Bay Storm take on the Philadelphia Soul in ArenaBowl XXX at the Wells Fargo Center.

Ings has never been more ready for a game in his life.

“I’m geeked,” the Arena Football League’s 2017 playmaker of the year said. “I’m so excited. We’ve prepared great this whole week. I’m healthy. I can’t wait. What is it Wednesday? Three more days and it’s game time, so I’m ready.”

Ings can barely contain his enthusiasm as he transitions from talking about an all-team meeting prior to a mid-July regular season game at Baltimore where the team outlined all their concerns, desires and goals to the bond he and his teammates feel each and every time they step out on the field with one another.

Saturday’s AFL championship affords them one more opportunity to play together.

“It’s a brotherhood,” Ings explained. “I love the boys. I have no older brothers and I’m one of the youngest on the team, so they’re all my big brothers. It’s a great feeling to have my brothers behind me. The chemistry on the team is one of the best I’ve had since I’ve been in Arena Football.”

That chemistry will be put to the test against the defending ArenaBowl champions.

The Storm have played Philadelphia three times this season and have come away with a loss on all three occasions. Tampa Bay, in fact, is currently mired in an eight-game losing skid to the Soul and hasn’t beaten Philly since a 56-49 victory midway through the 2014 season.

That slump means nothing to the Storm, however. Saturday’s title game affords the team the opportunity to clean up some of the miscues that have plagued them in their losses to the Soul this season. A missed extra point here, an untimely interception there have been the difference between beating Philly and going back to the drawing board to figure a way to overcome the league’s top-ranked team.

“I think the reason why we keep losing to those guys is we turn the ball over,” said Joe Hills, who was named AFL wide receiver of the year on Tuesday. “I feel like they make us turn the ball over twice every time, and two turnovers in this game, that’s a recipe for disaster. But I think we’re going to do the same thing: catch, execute, try to put more points on the board and maybe stop them once or twice more and go from there.”

The Storm have focused on ball security all this week in preparation for Saturday’s big game. They’ve also worked on executing their game plan more efficiently while adding some wrinkles to keep the Soul off balance.

“We’ll have some tweaks here and there, just like I’m sure they will,” Storm quarterback Randy Hippeard, an All-Arena first team selection, said. “Anytime you get a full season to prepare for somebody, especially for the last game of the year, you’re going to tweak some things, do some little things different here and there, but at the end of the day, we are who we are and they are who they are. So we’ve got to execute and just bring it to the table.”

It’s really that simple. The Storm have yet to put forth their best performance in games against the Soul this season. They’re still looking to play that perfect game.

The ArenaBowl would be as good a time as any to put one together.

“I’ve been coaching for 30 years. I can honestly say being here in Tampa’s been a blessing,” Storm head coach Ron James said. “The team that I have has been a lot of fun. It’s a great group of guys to be around on and off the field. We’re just looking forward to playing our best game of the year and hopefully bringing a championship back to Tampa.”