TAMPA BAY – The Tampa Bay Storm kicks off the 2013 season with its home opener versus the Jacksonville Sharks at the Tampa Bay Times Forum Saturday evening at 7:30 PM EST. This will be the seventh meeting between the two teams, and fourth in Tampa. The Storm has a 1-5 record versus the Sharks, with its lone victory coming at home last season.
The Storm finished the 2012 season with an 8-10 overall record, just one win away from a playoff spot. In the offseason, the staff saw the need to improve the defense. Head Coach Dave Ewart added two new faces to his coaching staff, bringing in defensive backs coach Doug Kay, who returns for a third stint with the Storm, and defensive line coach Chris Hovan. They join offensive coordinator Lawrence Samuels, who returns to the Storm for his second season as a coach.
Nine players return to the Storm from the 2012 season. With the retirement of former quarterback Stephen Wasil, Ewart will have to rely on Adrian McPherson and Shane Boyd to run an offensive unit that saw much improvement last season, finishing 8th in the AFL scoring an average of 56.7 points per game. The quarterbacks will be throwing to returning wide receivers Joe Hills and Michael Lindsey, along with newcomers Chris C. Davis, Greg Ellingson, and Jesse Julmiste.
Veteran center Brad Serini and offensive lineman Terence Crosby return for their second season with the Storm. They will be joined by rookies Alfred McCullough and Nevin McCaskill.
On the defensive side of the ball, only four players return from last season. Second-year Storm defensive back Vance Cuff will be patrolling the defensive backfield with four new faces, Rashad Barksdale, De’Audra Dix, Jean Fanor and Chris Smith. The defensive line will also have some new faces in Rodney Beamon, LeRoy Burgess, R.J. Roberts and Demarcus “Tank” Tyler. They join returning veterans John-Kevin Dolce, Paul Griffin, and Pernell Phillips.
The Sharks are lead by Les Moss. The three-time South Division champion looks to continue its dominance this season by adding a veteran presence to the team. With more veterans, the Sharks hope to improve its overall play.
Moss will lean on quarterbacks Bernard Morris and R.J. Archer to help an offense that finished 12th in the AFL averaging 51.7 points per game. The Sharks also acquired former Storm wide receiver Hank Edwards from the San Jose Sabercats, and former Arizona Rattler, Markee White. The re-acquisition of Jeff Hughley, a wide receiver/kick returner that was a key piece to Jacksonville’s championship team in 2011, should also help the offense.
On the defensive side of the ball, the Sharks upgraded the defensive backfield by adding 2012 second team all-arena selection Tracy Belton. Returning on the defensive line is six-year veteran Jerry Turner and first team all-arena selection Aaron Robbins. Newcomer Dusty Bear, a 2011 second-team all-arena selection, has also joined the fold.