TAMPA– After somewhat of a confidence-boosting 42-40 loss in Orlando nine days ago, the Tampa Bay Storm (0-7, 0-4) returned home and came 10 seconds away from beating the Cleveland Gladiators (4-4, 1-1). Instead, Gladiators quarterback Arvell Nelson connected with Collin Taylor for a 12-yard touchdown to send the game to overtime before Cleveland came away with a 70-63 win.
“Too many mistakes going down the stretch,” Storm head coach Lawrence Samuels said. “That was the determining factor of the game.”
Overtime started with a Cleveland touchdown as Nelson hit Larry Beavers from 24 yards out to put his team on top 70-63. After Tampa Bay took over, Marvin Ross intercepted a deep pass from Jason Boltus to close the game and keep the Storm winless.
It was a back-and-forth game the whole way, featuring some wild moments. At the one minute warning in the first half, Tampa Bay led 21-20, but when time ran out, the game was tied at 35. Storm wide receiver Julius Gregory, returning from inactive reserve, caught two touchdowns in the first half’s final minute. He finished the night with seven catches for 99 yards and three touchdowns.
“I played a great game, but there’s no ‘I’ in ‘team,'” Gregory said. “We’re going back to the drawing board, myself included, and we’re going to fix it.”
With the game tied in the fourth quarter, Cortez Stubbs came up with an interception, returning it to the Cleveland seven-yard line. A few plays later, Boltus scored from a yard out to give Tampa Bay a 56-49 lead. On the ensuing drive, he hit Gregory for a 33-yard touchdown to put the Storm up by seven with 54 seconds to go. Boltus completed 30 of 46 passes on the night for 351 yards and nine total touchdowns (eight passing).
Tampa Bay’s T.T. Toliver had another big night, hauling in 12 passes for 156 yards and three touchdowns.
With the Gladiators threatening late in the fourth, the Storm needed just one more stop to come away with win no. 1 on the year, but it didn’t come. Taylor’s touchdown catch with 10 seconds left on the clock sent the game to overtime, where Tampa Bay came up just short once again.
“I’m not going to sit up here and lie; it hurts,” Stubbs said. “At the same time, we’ve just got to get over that hump.”
The Storm’s next chance to get over the proverbial hump is Sunday, when they host the Arizona Rattlers (6-2, 4-0). Kickoff is set for 2 p.m.