TAMPA BAY -- For the second time in the season’s first three weeks, the Tampa Bay Storm will take on the Cleveland Gladiators.
The Storm defeated Cleveland 46-40 when the teams met in Week 1.
After the Arena Football League underwent major changes in the offseason, just five AFL teams remain. The result is frequent matchups between the remaining clubs.
As the Storm prepares to face the Gladiators again, the players know their Week 1 win means little heading into this week’s matchup.
“We need to go in each week like it’s our first time playing them,” said wide receiver Kendrick Ings, who set a Storm record with 346 all-purpose yards in Week 2. “If we go in saying we played these guys before and we beat these guys before, that will be a negative on our part.”
The repeated matchups between teams has a big affect on how teams game plan week to week. Several players and coaches told me that they’re excited to open the playbook even more than they did the last time these teams met.
“In the first game we were very vanilla,” said head coach Ron James. “We purposely didn’t show them a lot because we knew we’d see them just two weeks later. Now we can open up the playbook a little bit more this week and we can get more creative with some of the things we’re doing.”
Despite being “vanilla” through the first two weeks, the Storm’s offense has gotten off to a great start, scoring over 40 points in each of their first two games. That is something the team failed to do until Week 6 in 2016.
One major factor in their offensive success has been the play of the receiving core. Through two weeks, Storm receivers have combined for 12 touchdowns.
Kendrick Ings, the only returning member of the Storm’s 2016 receiving core, has caught three of those touchdowns. He believes their matchup against Cleveland’s defensive backs is the Storm’s biggest advantage heading into Week 3.
“I feel like we can get what we want out of them,” Ings said. “They have a couple of banged up (defensive backs) and I think we can use that to our advantage. They can’t cover us.”
He’ll have a chance to prove that on Saturday night at Amalie Arena.