The Tampa Bay Storm (0-6, 0-4) hosts the Cleveland Gladiators (3-4, 1-1) on Military Appreciation Night, this Monday, May 23 at AMALIE Arena. After a strong showing versus the Orlando Predators last week, the Storm will look to use that momentum to earn its first win of the 2016 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 will be broadcast live on Univision Deportes and Bright House Sports Network. The game can also be streamed on the Lightning Power Play through the iHeartRadio app or on ESPN3. Kickoff is set for 8:00 p.m. EST.
This will be the 20th meeting between these two franchises and 13th in Tampa. Overall the Gladiators lead the series 10-9, but the Storm has a winning home record of 7-5. In their last meeting, the Storm fell in the final seconds after throwing an interception returned for a touchdown. While the final score was 41-29, the Storm found itself down by only five points with 18.4 seconds left. The Storm would end up throwing an interception which was returned 52 yards for the score.
Tampa Bay is coming off a loss to its rival, the Orlando Predators. While the team lost by two points, it started to show signs of life on offense. Storm quarterback Jason Boltus returned to the field and led the team to its highest scoring output this season, 42 points. Boltus completed 27-of-46 passes for 254 yards and four touchdowns. He would also go on to rush twice for 11 yards and a touchdown. The four-year veteran found all of his receivers, with his top-two targets being, Phillip Barnett and T.T. Toliver. Barnett finished the night with 12 receptions for 115 yards and two touchdowns.
Toliver continued to show why he is one of the best receivers in the League, reeling in 11 passes for 115 yards and two touchdowns. He became the first player in League history to record 5,000+ yards and 400+ receptions with two different teams (Tampa Bay and Orlando). The 13-year veteran now has 1,121 career receptions, needing just 44 to surpass Damian Harrell (1,164) for the most in League history.
Defensively, the Storm has been on a tear recently. The team enters the night with a top-3 defense in several categories and it holds opponents to just 49.8 points per game. Over the course of the past three games, the Storm has held its opponents to an average of 40.7 points per game. Just last week, the team held the Predators to 42 points, 26.5 points under the team’s average (68.5) heading into week seven.
Part of the success of the defense has to do with a defensive backfield that consists of all-arena defensive backs James Harrell and Cameron McGlenn, along with Cortez Stubbs. Harrell has been impressive as of late, hauling in an interception in back-to-back games. He now has 15 career interceptions, good for fourth all-time in Storm history. McGlenn has also seen success over his career, reeling in 38 career interceptions. He ranks fifth among all active defensive backs, needing just four to surpass Soul defensive back Tracy Belton (41).
Over the past two games, the Storm defensive line has started to gain some steam also. A standout has been mac linebacker Jimmy Gordon. Gordon recorded his first two sacks of the season versus Orlando in week six. He would also go on to play fullback, rushing once for a yard and a touchdown. Gordon will look to continue to improve his game as the season goes on.
Cleveland enters the game after defeating the Portland Steel 55-48 this past Monday in overtime. The offense is led by quarterback Arvell Nelson, who will made his third start of the season versus the Steel. He completed 14-of-27 passes for 222 yards and five touchdowns. He would also rush five times for 32 yards and a pair of touchdowns. His top target was wide receiver Colin Taylor, who caught seven passes for 90 yards and two touchdowns. Taylor has had success versus the Storm as of late, reeling in five passes for 69 yards and three touchdowns in the teams’ first meeting of the season.
Look for the Storm offense to continue to improve this week as it searches for its first win. A win and a strong offensive showing could go a long way in showing this team can cause some trouble when all the cylinders are firing.