TAMPA BAY- After its first opening week win since 2014, the Tampa Bay Storm is set to take the field for the first time on its home turf.
It will be Coach Ron James’ first home game as the head coach of Storm. James, who enters his 23rd year in the AFL, is well aware of the advantages of a home game in Tampa Bay.
“This is a tough place to play,” James said. “There’s not a more hostile environment in all the league and it’s been that way for decades.”
One player who is anxious to get back in front of the Tampa Bay fans is wide receiver Joe Hills. Hills called Amalie Arena home for three seasons before heading to Jacksonville where he solidified himself as one of the league’s most dynamic threats. He heads into Saturday’s game with a streak of 69 consecutive games with a touchdown.
“It’s going to be great,” Hills said. “I haven’t been here in awhile so I’m excited to see what happens.”
Their opponent on Saturday night is the defending AFL champion Philadelphia Storm.
It will be Philadelphia’s first game since winning the Arena Bowl in 2016 and that’s something that James sees as an advantage.
“It’s a big game for us,” James said. “We’re coming into this situation 1-0 and they haven’t played yet.”
A key to the game for Tampa Bay will be their ability to put pressure on Philadelphia quarterback Dan Raudabaugh. The Storm finished last season with a only 8 sacks. After one game, they’re already halfway to that season total with 4 sacks in Week 1.
“We just have to play our game,” defensive lineman Jordan Miller said. “We feel we have tremendous athletes up front that can get to the quarterback no matter who we’re playing against and we know that’s a key.”
Unlike the Storm, Philadelphia comes into 2017 with a nearly identical roster to 2016. As Coach James says, an early season matchup with the defending champions will be a good measuring stick for the new look Storm.
“This is a great football team,” James said. “How we play is going to be a barometer to the success we’re going to have this season. The challenge is great, but these are the games you play for.”
They’ll face that challenge Saturday night at 7 at AMALIE Arena.