The Tampa Bay Storm returned to the Tampa Bay Times Forum this week to hold practice following the team’s most recent loss at Orlando on Friday night.
The friendly confines of the Times Forum proved to be a much-welcomed sight, as the defeat at the hands of the Predators dropped Tampa Bay to 6-7 overall, and 0-7 on the road. Fortunately, the Storm play each of their next two games at home, where they are undefeated on the year, including the team’s upcoming game this Saturday night versus San Antonio.
The Talons come in with a 10-3 record, which is tied with Arizona for the AFL’s second-best mark behind only Philadelphia, who has a game up on each. Unlike a team that has staggered its wins and losses throughout the season, the Talons are the league’s hottest team right now, entering Saturday’s tussle on a seven-game win streak.
The Storm enters a two-game home stand with the standings still tightly-bunched at the top of the South Division. However, coach Ewart choses to look at it one game at a time. In order to stay focused on achieving the team’s primary goal right now, which is to make the playoffs, the team would have to establish that same narrow focus he talks about and just focus on beating San Antonio this weekend.
“Our outlook is still one game at a time,” Ewart said. “That’s the way we prefer it, just to look ahead to this week only and not get too far ahead of ourselves.”
Ewart added that practicing inside its home arena this week provided the luxury of getting some extra practice in on fielding balls off the nets. That appeared to be the team’s major Achilles’ heel on Friday against the Predators, as Tampa Bay muffed five kickoff returns off the nets, including two of which that led to opposing scores.
Now, without Chandler Williams, who took his talents over to the Canadian Football League earlier this month, and with Michael Lindsey still on Injured Reserve, the team faces a challenge in getting new players accustomed to taking on added responsibilities and different roles.
“I told these guys, I kind of feel like we’re starting training camp all over again with some new players, a new quarterback and new receivers,” Ewart added. “So for us to get in here and get down our spacing, our timing and our markings is huge.”
Perhaps just as huge is the task at hand this week as a tough Talons team comes to town.
San Antonio, amidst its impressive win streak, boasts one of the league’s best defenses. The Talons are 1-3 when it allows a team to score 60 or more points, and undefeated when it allows less than 60. In the team’s three losses, the Talons allowed an average of 69 points per game and 45.7 per game in its victories.
It also has veteran quarterback Aaron Garcia calling the signals on offense, one of the greatest passers to ever play in the AFL.
“They’re a great team, and any time Aaron is leading that team, they’re going to be pretty good,” Storm quarterback Nick Hill said. “We’re going to have to match them score for score and get a couple of stops. However, playing at home is big. I am familiar with and their head coach, he was one of our coaches last season when I was in Orlando, so we know some of their guys pretty good and we know what we’re going to get when we face them.”
INSIDE THE SERIES
SCOUTING THE TALONS
STORM AGAINST THE TALONS
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
Week 10: at Georgia, L 44-41
Week 11: at Cleveland, L 53-34
Week 12: vs. Milwaukee, W 63-55
Week 13: at Jacksonville, L 71-61
Week 14: at Orlando, L 64-40
Wednesday: 9-11 a.m. – Tampa Bay Times Forum
Thursday: 9-11 a.m. – TBTF
Friday: Walkthrough, 8-9 a.m. – TBTF
Saturday: Game vs. San Antonio, 7:30 p.m. – TBTF
Sunday: Off Day
Monday: 9:15-11:15 a.m. – Tampa Bay Times Forum