TAMPA BAY, FL – Coming off of their worst loss in franchise history, the Tampa Bay Storm were out to prove that last week was a one-time thing.
“Last week wasn’t us,” said wide receiver Julius Gregory. “We just wanted to let our fans know that the Storm is here to play football and what [they] saw last week will never happen again.”
Saturday night was no repeat of last week as the Storm (4-5) held on late for a 35-34 victory over the New Orleans VooDoo (2-8) in front of 13,581 at Amalie Arena.
“That was huge for us,” said Storm head coach Lawrence Samuels. “I’ll take the victory any time. I’m not going to say we played well tonight, but every time we faced adversity, somebody stepped up and made a play.”
Adversity came early as Larry Beavers took the opening kickoff 56 yards for a touchdown to give the VooDoo an early lead. On the ensuing drive, Gregory tied things up with an 8-yard touchdown reception, his first of three on the night. The two teams then traded blows until New Orleans’ Roosevelt Falls scored on an 8-yard touchdown run with 27 seconds left in the first half, putting his team up 28-21 at halftime.
The Storm came out of the locker room after the break with a sense of urgency, scoring on its first drive when Jason Boltus hit Gregory from four yards out to tie the game.
On the following drive, New Orleans drove down inside the Tampa Bay 5-yard line and just when the Storm defense appeared to have a key stop, a defensive penalty gave the VooDoo a fresh set of downs. Two plays later, Everett Dawkins forced a fumble that James Harrell recovered, shifting all of the momentum toward Tampa Bay. The momentum led to the go-ahead touchdown with three minutes left, but this time it was Kendrick Ings who came through with a 29-yard reception from Boltus to give Tampa Bay a 35-28 lead.
The VooDoo appeared ready to tie the game with under six minutes to go in the fourth, but a missed extra point by Garrett Lindholm kept the Storm ahead by one.
The Storm offense struggled to keep possession, turning the ball over on downs with 1:03 left. It would be up to the Tampa Bay defense to make a big stop once again, and they didn’t disappoint. James Harrell, who already had an interception and a fumble recovery, intercepted Brian Reading at the 7 to seal the win for the Storm.
“Guys were very in tune into the game plan,” said Samuels. “Especially in the red zone on our defense. Hats off to those guys.”
The victory snaps a two-game losing streak for Tampa Bay as they head into Arizona next Saturday to take on the Rattlers (6-2), who have won three straight Arena Bowls. Kickoff is set for 9 p.m. ET.