TAMPA – The Tampa Bay Storm won their fifth straight game for the first time since 2010 and more importantly defeated South Division rival, the Orlando Predators, 35-34, Saturday night at AMALIE Motor Oil Field at the Tampa Bay Times Forum.
“It was a good defensive arena football game,” head coach Lawrence Samuels said. “To shut down a team to only 34 points that had been scoring a lot, I’m happy.”
It was the first time this season the Storm defeated the division rival in the third and final installment of “the War on I-4.”
“Beating Orlando, getting that third one, the one that matters, the locker room’s loud right now,” defensive back James Harrell said. “We felt like we really had to get this one and it really meant something to win tonight.”
Tampa Bay and Orlando kept the contest tight to begin the evening, with each side exchanging seven touchdowns in the first half. After the Storm were unable to score in the contest’s opening drive due to an interception, quarterback Randy Hippeard ran for back-to-back touchdowns, before throwing a 5-yard pass to Joe Hills. Hills now has 31 consecutive games with a touchdown.
However the Predators did one better than Tampa Bay, as a 19-yard touchdown pass to Kendal Thompkins with 10 seconds left in the half left their division foe ahead 27-21 heading into the third quarter.
By the start of the second half defense took over on both fronts, as Tampa Bay intercepted Predators quarterback, Bernard Morris, twice compliments of Harrell. Prior to Saturday, Morris had thrown just one interception all season. The plays on defense left Orlando, the league leader in total offense, scoreless in the third quarter, while the Storm took a one-point lead by scoring on the ensuing possession after Harrell’s first interception.
“As a defense coming into this game we knew we had to play Orlando physical,” Harrell said. “The defense was able to put on a lot of pressure.”
The Storm had an opportunity to take their biggest lead of the game at the beginning of the fourth quarter, but Hills’ fumbled the ball in the end zone, as it was recovered by Orlando. On the Predators very next possession, they brought the ball back for a touchdown of their own and a 34-28 lead.
Again, Tampa Bay responded when Hippeard helped the Storm re-gain a 35-34 lead after diving into the end zone with his third rushing touchdown of the game.
“I’m just doing whatever it takes to get into the end zone,” Hippeard said.
On the very next drive the Predators attempted to take the lead with ample time left, but instead a false start pushed them to their own 1-yard line. Then Storm defensive back Rod Issac then intercepted the ball to solidify the victory for Tampa Bay.
“Our defense came up big for us tonight,” Hippeard said. “They had three turnovers in this game and that last one was the biggest one of the night.”
UP NEXT – Tampa Bay plays three straight tilts away from the Times Forum starting with next Friday in Cleveland versus the Gladiators at 7 p.m. Week 17 then brings their second and final bye week of the season, before they play back-to-back contests on the West Coast during Weeks 18 and 19. The Storm close out their schedule at the Times Forum on Saturday, July 26 versus Cleveland.