TAMPA, FL – The Storm (2-13, 0-7) came out clicking on all cylinders against the Steel (2-13, 0-7) on Saturday evening to take a 28-6 lead in the second quarter, but it took a last-second blocked field goal to seal a 41-40 win in front of 8,958 at Amalie Arena.
“We made enough mistakes to keep [Portland] in it. We’ve still got some things we need to work on,” Storm head coach Lawrence Samuels said. “But, we’re a team. We’re still motivated to play.”
The final minutes of the contest were a roller coaster for both teams. Tampa Bay had a one-point lead and possession with less than five to go, but Portland got the ball back with a tipped-pass interception by Matt Pierce. The pick came one play after the Storm won a challenge to overturn a fumble and keep possession.
Minutes later, the Steel converted a 4th & 6 before the ball appeared to come loose. Cortez Stubbs scooped it up and returned it for a touchdown, but what seemed to be the Tampa Bay dagger was overturned by replay. The Steel played for the chance at a last-second field goal, but the block gave the Storm its second win of the season.
“[Playing for the field goal] is a coach’s decision,” Samuels said. “I’m just proud of our guys for playing the final play.”
After 30 minutes, no one would’ve thought that the Storm would need a blocked kick to hang on for a win. Tampa Bay got out to an early lead, striking first on a nine-yard pass from Adam Kennedy to V’Keon Lacey. After Portland responded with a score, the extra point was blocked and returned by the Storm, but an inadvertent whistle cost Tampa Bay two points.
Early in the second quarter, Kennedy connected with Prechae Rodriguez for six to extend the Storm lead. On the ensuing kickoff, Nick Addison forced a fumble that James Harrell recovered. Tampa Bay took advantage, scoring on a four-yard run by Kendrick Ings. One defensive stop later, Kennedy found T.T. Toliver for a touchdown to extend the Tampa Bay lead to 28-6. From there, Portland fought its way back into the game.
The Storm turned the ball over on downs after Cameron McGlenn made an acrobatic interception in the end zone. The failure to convert the turnover into points kept the Steel in the game, as Portland quarterback Shane Austin scored on a sneak right before the half ended to give his team some life. On the first possession of the second half, the Steel cut into the Storm lead, getting within 28-19.
Tampa Bay headed into the fourth quarter needing to protect a nine-point lead, but its offense turned the ball over on downs to start the quarter before Kennedy threw an interception with 4:06 left in the game, nearly costing the Storm its second win. While trying to keep Portland out of the end zone in the final minute, the Storm spent all three of its timeouts, looking to save some time on the clock. The Steel was in no rush to score, instead opting to set up for a 23-yard field goal with 3.9 seconds to go. The kick was then blocked by DL Everett Dawkins and the celebration was on for Tampa Bay.
With a 2-13 record and just one regular season game left to play, the Storm’s seeding for the postseason is set. After next Saturday’s game in Jacksonville against the Sharks, Tampa Bay will play the winner of the week 18 matchup between Orlando and Philadelphia. If Orlando wins, the Storm will take on the Predators on Saturday, August 6. If Philadelphia wins, Tampa Bay will play the Soul on Sunday, August 7. The team will not let its regular season struggles get in the way of its postseason play.
“Hey, who knows what’s going to happen down the stretch?” Samuels said.
Next Saturday’s matchup in Jacksonville is set for a 7:00pm ET kickoff.