Week 9 Preview: Storm vs. Rattlers

May 26, 2016 Tampa Bay Storm

The Tampa Bay Storm (0-7, 0-4) hosts the Arizona Rattlers (6-2, 4-0) on Family Day, this Sunday, May 29 at AMALIE Arena.  After suffering a loss to the Cleveland Gladiators in overtime, the Storm continues the search for its first 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 2:00 p.m. EST.

This will be the 18th meeting between both franchises and 11th in Tampa.  The Storm leads the overall series with a record of 10-7 while also holding a home record of 7-3.  This will be the teams’ second meeting this season, with the Rattlers beating the Storm 60-27 in week three.

Coming into this week, the Storm will look to rebound after suffering a heartbreaking overtime loss to the Gladiators.  While the team lost, it showed promise on the offensive side of the ball, an area of struggle for the first six games of the season.  Quarterback Jason Boltus had command of the team, completing 30-of-46 passes for 351 yards and eight touchdowns.  He would also add a score on the ground.  Boltus led the team to its highest scoring output of the season with 63 points.  The 63 points were the most points scored by the Storm since the 2015 season when it scored 53 points versus New Orleans in week 17.

One of the top stories of the night was the return of Julius Gregory who was coming off of injured reserve.  Gregory made an immediate impact on the field making several acrobatic catches.  He finished the night with seven catches for 99 yards and three touchdowns.  Gregory has found success when playing against the Rattlers.  Last season, the Portsmouth, VA native reeled in six passes for 109 yards and four touchdowns.

Another story heading into the game is that of future Hall of Famer, T.T. Toliver.  The 13-year veteran made history versus Orlando on May 19th when he became the first player to compile 5,000+ receiving yards and 400+ receptions with two different teams.  He is now on the way to becoming the League’s all-time leader in receptions and yards.  Toliver has 1,133 receptions and needs just 32 to pass AFL Hall of Famer Damian Harrell (1,164) for the most in League history.  The 1,165 catches would give him the third most catches in professional football history, behind Jerry Rice (1,549) and Tony Gonzalez (1,325).  His 14,786 receiving yards also rank second all-time in League history with him needing just 348 to surpass Harrell (15,134) to become the League’s all-time leader.

Defensively, the Storm will need to have an impressive showing against a potent offense.  The Rattlers are led by quarterback Nick Davila who has completed 176-of-258 passes for 2,079 yards and 52 touchdowns.  He has also thrown just four interceptions, making him one of the most efficient quarterbacks in the League.  Throughout the season, his top target has been wide receiver Rod Windsor, who has caught 81 passes for 968 yards and 23 touchdowns.

The night will also mark the return of former Storm head coach Dave Ewart, who led the team from 2011-13.  Ewart has served as the Rattlers defensive coordinator since the 2014 season.

While the team is struggling, look for the Storm to continue to put points on the board.  The Rattlers enter the game having lost two of their last three games and have seen a decrease in scoring over their past three outings.  For the Storm to be successful, the defense will need to hold the Rattlers’ offense at bay, while also giving its own offense an opportunity to score.