The Tampa Bay Storm (1-7, 0-4) heads to Portland, OR to take on the Steel (0-8, 0-5) this Friday, June 3 at the Moda Center. Coming off a win over the heavily favored Arizona Rattlers, the Storm will look to earn its second win of the season. Fans will be able to catch all of the action as Darek Sharp and Ian Beckles make the call for 1250 AM WHNZ. The game can also be streamed on the Lightning Power Play through the iHeartRadio app or on ESPN3. Kickoff is set for 10:30 p.m. EST.
This will be the third meeting between Tampa Bay and the Portland franchise. The overall series is tied, with the Storm holding a winning record of 1-0 when facing Portland on the road. The Storm has faced Steel head coach Ron James three times, holding a record of 2-1.
The Storm enters the game after what many would call an improbable win over the Arizona Rattlers. Last week, the Storm showed what it could do when playing a near perfect game in all phases of the game. The offense and defense came up big when needed, and the team earned a score on special teams with a 55-yard kickoff return by Gerald Young.
Offensively, the Storm has started to come into its own. Much of this can be attributed to the return of Jason Boltus as the team’s full time starting quarterback. Through the first five weeks of the season, the Storm averaged just 25 points per game, including a season-low 17 points versus the Philadelphia Soul. With the return of Boltus, the team has averaged 55.3 points per game, a 30.3 increase in just three weeks. The offensive output has consistently improved over the past three weeks, with 63 point showings versus the Cleveland Gladiators in week eight and just this past weekend versus the Rattlers.
Defensively, the Storm is one of the best teams in the League and it is starting to accumulate the stats to prove it. At the beginning of the season the defensive line was getting pressure but did not have the sacks to show for it. Now the team has 6.0 sacks over the course of the past four games.
The defensive backfield has also seen an increase in production as well. Storm defensive back Cortez Stubbs has proved to be a force, leading the team with three interceptions and 43.0 total tackles. Stubbs currently ranks sixth in the League in tackles and eighth in interceptions. He will look to increase his interception total versus the Steel, a team ranked first in the League with 20 interceptions thrown.
Portland’s offense will be led by quarterback Shane Austin. Austin has started in the past three games for the Steel, completing 82-of-141 passes for 819 yards, 14 touchdowns and nine interceptions. His top target has been wide receiver Tom Gilson, who has caught 41 passes over the past three games. Wide receiver Tyrone Goard has also proven to be a force, averaging 11.0 points per game, scoring seven touchdowns in the past three weeks.
While the Storm will look to improve its overall record, the team cannot take the Steel lightly. Austin is a playmaker that puts his team in a position to win. Once again, Tampa Bay will need to play a perfect game if it wants to win a tough game on the road in Portland.