TAMPA, FL — What started as a festive night for the Tampa Bay Storm (0-1) went downhill in a hurry as the Orlando Predators (1-0) took a 34-13 lead into halftime before completely running away with the game in the second half. The Predators handed the Storm a 76-25 loss, its worst loss in franchise history, with 9,928 fans in attendance at Amalie Arena. The win was Orlando’s fourth straight over the Storm in the “War on I-4” rivalry.
“We’ve got a lot work to do,” Storm head coach Lawrence Samuels said. “The guys realize that. Little stuff really snowballed on us and then we were pressing trying to get back in the game.”
The Storm, celebrating its 25th season in Tampa Bay, donned throwback uniforms from the franchise’s early days, but those weren’t enough to stop the Predators, who turned in a complete performance on the way to their first win of the season.
Orlando struck for six on its opening drive before Tampa Bay quickly responded with a 5-yard touchdown catch by Julius Gregory. Back-to-back stops on fourth down for the Predators defense then sparked a 42-6 run that lasted into the third quarter.
Trailing by 21 at halftime, the Storm needed a spark to start the second half. Instead, the offense gave away 14 points on just two plays as Orlando scored on a fumble recovery by Mike Lewis and a 13-yard pick six by Paul Stephens.
“You’ve got to keep going in this game,” Samuels said. “We’ve got a lot of teaching to do.”
It was a debut to forget for new Tampa Bay quarterback Adam Kennedy, who completed 12 of 25 passes for 150 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions. He was replaced by rookie Jonathan Bane in the fourth quarter. Former Storm quarterback Randy Hippeard, coming off of a record-breaking season in 2015, fared much better. He completed 20 of 30 passes for 241 yards and six touchdowns.
One of the lone bright spots for the Storm was wide receiver Gerald Young, who made his team debut. In the second quarter, he showed off his skills in the return game, taking a kick back to midfield. He caught his first touchdown pass of the season while hauling in six passes for 81 yards.
“I’m an optimistic person. I see potential in this team and I’m looking to tap into it,” Young said. “I know what kind of fighters I’ve got in that locker room and we’re going to go back to the drawing page. Hopefully we can get it rolling with Cleveland.”
Tampa Bay will hit the road next Saturday night to take on the Cleveland Gladiators (0-1) at 7 p.m.