SAN ANTONIO – Not only did the Tampa Bay Storm enter Friday’s matchup without a win against the San Antonio Talons franchise, they also had not started a season 2-0 since 2008. The Storm managed to overcome both those statistics Friday in a 48-45 come-from-behind win versus the Talons at the Alamodome.
“We had to fight through adversity,” Michael Lindsey said. “We believed in our defense and we believed in our offense. We’ve been here before, so we just had to fight through it and we did that.”
Losing a 10-point lead in the last six minutes of the contest, Tampa Bay found themselves trailing with one minute left. An Amari Jackson touchdown, his third of the game, with four seconds to go, solidified the Storm’s second straight victory.
“We made a lot of mistakes on offense,” head coach Lawrence Samuels said. “But the guys showed a lot of character in the fourth quarter by executing and winning. We gave them a lot of chances to win, but we fought through it and it’s a Storm win. I’ll take it.”
Entering the tilt, the Talons had lost back-to-back games just once since the club relocated to San Antonio in 2012. It was also the second time in as many weeks that the Talons suffered a loss as the clock expired.
The Storm trailed by two scores at the end of the first quarter after Mitch Mustain’s threw a 35-yard touchdown to D.J. Stevens and he rushed for a one-yard touchdown for a 14-0 lead.
Tampa Bay quarterback, Randy Hippeard, got things going for the Storm on the first play of the second quarter. Hippeard connected with Justin Hilton for a 26-yard touchdown to cut the Talons’ lead to 14-7. It was Hilton’s fourth consecutive game (dating back to the 2013 season) with a touchdown scored.
Chris Smith then intercepted Mustain’s pass to give the Storm a chance to tie the game, but Hippeard was intercepted himself. Tampa Bay kept them to just a field goal for a 17-7 game, but before the end of the first half Hippeard threw his second touchdown of the game to Andrew Helmick to come within three on the score board.
At the beginning of the second half the Storm saw themselves in a similar situation, trailing by 10 points with a 24-14 score in favor of the Talons, but a big return from Tampa Bay’s Lindsey brought them within four early in the third quarter. After Lindsey put the Storm in San Antonio territory Helmick caught a seven-yard reception for a touchdown.
Lindsey finished the game with 140 kick-off return yards and is inching closer to breaking George LaFrance’s kick-off return record.
“I’m getting closer and closer to the record,” Lindsey said. “When I break the record it’s going to be a great feeling.”
Again the Storm had a chance to go-ahead, but Hippeard suffered another interception, which Jamar Ransom scored on for a 31-20 game with 6:37 left in the third quarter.
Talons head coach Lee Johnson decided to bench Mustain in the fourth quarter, despite holding a four-point advantage heading into the final quarter, in favor of quarterback Marcus Jackson. The move backfired on the Talons as the Storm took their first lead of the game, 33-31, with less than 10 minutes remaining in the contest.
Tampa Bay increased their lead to 41-31 with five and a half minutes left in the game, but back-to-back touchdowns gave the Talons a 45-41 lead with a minute left in regulation. The Storm managed to rise to the occasion though, as Jackson caught his third touchdown pass of the game from Hippeard for a 48-45 game that stood as the final.
UP NEXT – The Storm return to Amalie Motor Oil Field at the Tampa Bay Times Forum on Friday, March 29 for the “War on I-4” against South Division rival, the Orlando Predators. The 7:00 p.m. contest is the first of three meetings between the two clubs this season.