The Tampa Bay Storm (6-6, 3-3) visits the Orlando Predators (1-11, 1-3) Friday, June 15 as the War on I-4 is broadcast live on a national stage on NET10 Arena Football Friday on NFL Network at 8PM EST. This is the second match up this season between the two South Division rivals as the Storm won the earlier contest, 55-31, in what was Chris Leak’s first appearance for the Predators.
Entering this 50th meeting between the two teams, Tampa Bay holds a slight one game advantage all-time and enters the game having won the past two tilts. The two coaches are very familiar with each other as each served as long-time assistants with their respective teams prior to becoming the head coach. Both Dave Ewart (4-4) and Brett Munsey (2-2) have .500 records against the opponent.
The Orlando Predators are led offensively by former Florida standout, quarterback Chris Leak. He took over control of the Preds offense during the team’s last game against the Storm. In the four games since then he has completed 88-of-153 passes for 1,158 yards and 23 touchdowns. His favorite target by far has been former Storm player TT Toliver, as he has caught 28 passes for 448 yards and11 touchdowns. An emerging contributor is Jarvis Williams who has 19 receptions for 199 yards and seven touchdowns in the past two games. Aiding Leak’s progression has been the move of Chris Jamison from center to fullback with the addition of Paul Fenaroli snapping the ball. This has helped with Leak’s protection while adding greater efficiency to the power running game.
The task of stopping the Preds offense falls on the pass rush of the Tampa Bay Storm led by Pernell Phillips who leads the team with six sacks. The defensive front four has shown the ability to get after the quarterback, but must do so on a consistent basis. Phillips will be joined by two former Predators in hunting down Leak, Paul Griffin and Frisner Nelson. Each of the lineman has shown the ability to get after the quarterback, including Mack linebacker Steve Octavien (5.5 tackles for a loss),if they unit is able to put pressure on Leak, it will give the defensive backfield opportunities to make plays and jump routes as Leak has proven he can be rattled. Erick McIntosh will need to stay composed and come up big for the Storm, a task he has proven capable of as he is fourth in the AFL with 18 pass break ups.
Offensively the Storm expects to see former Preds standout Nick Hill line up under center as the team’s primary off season acquisition makes his long anticipated start. However, the Storm offense must deal with the loss of wide receiver Chandler Williams and offensive lineman George Bussey, each of whom joined the Toronto Argonauts earlier this week. Fortunately Hill’s protection will remain strong with Julius Wilson and Tom Kaletia anchoring the line and he still has standout receivers Amarri Jackson and Prechae Rodriguez as targets.
The strength of the Predators may lay with its defense, a unit that got a recent boost with the return of three-time AFL Defensive Player of the Year Kenny ‘The Glove’ McEntyre. He will add stability and experience to a good defensive backfield led by Simeon Castile and Travis Coleman. Castile is the primary cover corner and leads the team in passes defended with 15 while Coleman leads the team with six interceptions. Meanwhile, Terrance Carter and Quinn Pitcock (seven sacks combined) anchor a defensive line that will be tasked with containing a dual threat at quarterback in Nick Hill.