Tampa Bay Storm game notes
The Tampa Bay Storm (4-2) will shoot it out with the Dallas Desperados (5-1) in a high-noon affair at the St. Pete Times Forum. Both teams come into the game with "guns a blazing" as they both boast scoring offenses in the AFL's top five. Tampa Bay puts up 56.2 points per contest, good for third in the league, while Dallas is putting up 54.8 points per game for fifth. Storm QB Shane Stafford was a part of the Storm's victory over Dallas in the final week of the 2004 season. He completed 20 of 30 passes for 259 yards and seven touchdowns. Stafford comes into this contest as the fifth-rated passer in the league (117.4), first in passing yards (2,022) and second in completions (159). Storm WR/DB Bobby Sippio is facing his former teammates for the first time. Sippio spent two years with the Desperados where he ranked fourth all-time amongst Desperado receivers with 136 receptions for 1,080 yards and 54 touchdowns. He holds a team record for touchdowns in a season with 33 (2004). The Desperado offense is led by future AFL Hall-of-Fame QB Clint Dolezel. Dolezel has completed 151 of 223 passes for 1,737 yards and a league leading 37 touchdowns this season. Dolezel has a plethora of receivers to chose from including Dailleo Burks, Terrill Shaw and Will Pettis. The three have combined for 119 receptions for 1,473 yards and 35 touchdowns.
The Storm won their inaugural battle with the Kansas City Brigade (1-5), 69-59, in front of 15,227 fans at Kemper Arena in Kansas City. The Storm's top rated passing attack, putting up 348 yards per contest coming into the game, rushed to victory scoring five of their nine touchdowns on the ground. The Storm ran the ball 11 times for 27 yards. Stafford completed 22 of 38 passes for 256 yards and four touchdowns. He also rushed five times for 17 yards and three touchdowns. All of Stafford's four touchdown passes were to Sippio who caught nine passes for 129 yards. On defense, Sippio intercepted Brigade QB Andy Kelly once en route to being named Ironman of the game. Storm Kicker Bill Gramatica converted all nine point after attempts and nailed field goals of 47 (career-high) and 34 yards to give him 15 points (career-high) on the afternoon. The Storm made their first round through the Southern Division with a 3-1 record.
Starting Off On the Right Note...
The Storm have scored on their opening drive in six consecutive weeks to start the season. All six game opening drives ended with a touchdown (4 passing, 2 rushing).
The Storm are 4-0 this season leading after the first quarter. They have outscored their opponents 86-64 after the first 12 minutes of play to date.
Pick Your Poison
The dynamic duo of Samuels and Sippio has become a deadly combination for opposing defenses. They have combined for 88 receptions for 1,113 yards and 22 touchdowns. Those numbers account for 55 percent of Stafford's completions, 55 percent of the team's yards receiving and 67 percent of touchdowns caught.
The leading duo in the league belongs to the Utah Blaze. Siaha Burley and Orshawante Bryant have combined for 100 receptions for 1,302 yards and 26 touchdowns.
Not A Bad Second Option
Bobby Sippio is displaying why he was a highly sought after free-agent in the off season. This season he has caught 41 passes for 521 yards and a team-high 13 touchdowns. He is second on the team in receptions and receiving yards. Sippio has carried the ball once for a three-yard touchdown.
Benny and his Jets
Second-year man OS Demetris Bendross certainly makes good use of his time and speed on the playing field. In three games this season he has caught 21 passes for 329 yards and four touchdowns, including a 182-yard performance in Week 5's win versus Austin. That ties him for fifth for most receiving yards in a game with Samuels (2006) and Freddie Solomon (2004).
Last season, in three games played, he made 13 receptions for 212 yards and five touchdowns.
Riding the Green Wave
Lynarise Elpheage and Jeff Sanchez have proven to be quite the combination in the defensive backfield. The Tulane University graduates played together in New Orleans from 2000-03. This season Elpheage and Sanchez have made 18 stops each on defense, tied for fourth on the team. Elpheage is tied for the team lead with two interceptions and Sanchez has one. The two have combined for nine of the team's 24 passes defended.
Kicking With Perfection
Rookie kicker Bill Gramatica connected on nine of nine point after attempts last week versus the Kansas City Brigade. Gramatica also converted his two field goal attempts. A career-high 47 yard field goal and another from 34-yards out en route to a career-high 15 points in the game.
The former University of South Florida place kicker is second in the AFL in points scored for kickers with 55 and is eighth (minimum of 10 attempts) in the league with a .909 conversion percentage on point after attempts.
Stafford, So Nice Let's Do It Twice...
Shane Stafford became the first quarterback in AFL history to pass for 400 or more yards in consecutive games against the Austin Wranglers during Week 6.
Stafford passed for 424 yards in the win versus the Wranglers and tossed for 458 yards, a Storm record, in Week 5 against the Orlando Predators. Giving him a two week total of 882 yards passing, on 62 completions of 93 passes attempted (67%) and 15 touchdowns.
Lawrence Samuels continues to re-write the Storm record books. In Week 5 against the Austin Wranglers he toppled the career mark for receiving yards. He surpassed Storm great Stevie Thomas who set the mark at 7,784. Samuels has set the current benchmark at 7,882.
In Week 4 against the Orlando Predators, Samuels set the franchise high for tackles previously held by Tracey Perkins (348). Currently his record stands at 359.5.
Like A Bottle Of Fine Wine, The Older The Better
Twelve-year veteran Lawrence Samuels is tied for sixth in the AFL with 47 receptions and fifth in the league with 592 yards receiving. He also leads the team with 672 all purpose yards, which is the 14th best mark in the league.
Stafford Season-to-Season Comparison
Last year QB Stafford had one of the most prolific seasons by any Storm signal caller, establishing Storm season highs. Last season he finished with 405 completions on 631 attempts for 4,522 yards and 83 touchdowns.
Through 6 Games
ATT COMP PCT YDS TD's
2005 242 158 .653 1,685 36
2006 245 159 .649 2,022 33
It's As Easy As Putting Up A President Grant...
The Storm have scored 50 or more points in their previous five games. They scored 51 at Grand Rapids in Week 2, 61 versus Georgia in Week 3, 64 in a losing effort against their War on I-4 rival Orlando Predators and 58 against an unbeaten Austin squad and 69 in Kansas City last week.
The longest consecutive streak of 50 points or more games is seven in 2003, the same year the Storm won their fifth World Championship.
Leading at the Half
The Storm were unstoppable during the 2005 regular season when leading at the half, going 8-0. They are 133-16 all-time when leading after two quarters. Tampa Bay outscored opponents 423-388 in the first half last season, including 254-204 in the second quarter.
They are 2-0 this season (30-27, Week 3 vs. Georgia and 34-33, last week versus Kansas City) when leading at the half.
The Magic Number
The Storm are 48-3 in franchise history when they score 60 points or more. This season the Storm have scored 60 points or more on three occasions and are 2-1.
A Game For The Ages...
Stafford and Samuels set numerous records February 19 versus their rival from 85 miles east, the Orlando Predators.
Shane Stafford completed 36 passes for 458 yards and eight touchdowns. All of which are all-time Storm game highs.
The 36 completions ties him for second most all-time in AFL History with Andy Kelly (Nashville, 1999). The most completions in a game record belongs to Tommy Maddox with 38 (New Jersey, 2000).
Stafford's 458 passing yards gained is the third highest mark in the AFL's 19-plus year history. In 1999, Clint Dolezel passed for 479 yards and in 2000 Todd Marinovich passed for 469 yards.
This is the fourth time he has thrown for eight touchdowns in a game. He shares that Storm record with John Kaleo (three times) and Jay Gruden (7/18/92). The last time Stafford accomplished the feat was January 30, 2005 in last year's season opener versus the San Jose Sabercats.
Samuels caught 15 passes, tying him for most receptions all-time by any Storm player in a game (Freddie Solomon, 2004). His 182 yards receiving was a career high and tied him for fifth on the Storm list with teammate Freddie Solomon who achieved the feat in May 2004 and a week later duplicated by Demetris Bendross (Week 5, 2006).
In The Market
General Manager/Head Coach Tim Marcum and Director of Player Personnel Dave Ewart were busy during the off-season signing highly sought after free agents WR/LB Bobby Sippio (Dallas), as well as linemen Thaddeus Bullard (Las Vegas) and Buck Gurley (Orlando).
The Storm returned 15 of 20 players from last season. Of the players lost during the off season, two were kicker Matt George and backup QB Stoney Case.
Super Size Me!!!
The average weight of the Storm lineman this season in comparison to last is up nearly 10 pounds (2006 = 287.0 lbs.; 2005 = 277.8). New lineman include Thaddeus Bullard (275 lbs.), Mondre Dickerson (300 lbs.), Buck Gurley (300 lbs.), A.J. Ricker (295 lbs.) and Greg Taplin (280 lbs.). Bullard and Hunt are currently on IR.
Eight players on the 2006 Storm roster are in their first AFL season. The Storm rookies include kicker Bill Gramatica, linemen A.J. Ricker, Mondre Dickerson, Aaron Hunt, Greg Taplin and Kevin Dogins, as well as wide receiver/defensive backs Alphonso Roundtree and Leroy Smith.
Gramatica saw time in the NFL for four seasons with the Arizona Cardinals and Miami Dolphins. Ricker spent time in the Chicago Bears camp in 2005 and Alphonso Roundtree spent three seasons with the Miami Dolphins (2003-05).
Gramatica has converted 40 of 44 point after attempts. Taplin, while showing great speed at the defensive end position, has three tackles. Dickerson (Week 3 versus Georgia) and Smith (Week 4 versus Orlando) have made their AFL debuts. Smith has recorded two tackles and one reception for six yards. Ricker has played in every game this season at the center and nose guard position.
Tons of Experience on the Sideline
If there's one thing the Storm coaching staff has, it is Arena Football coaching experience. Headed by Tim Marcum, the AFL's all-time winningest coach, the three-man coaching staff has a total of 39 years of AFL coaching experience entering the season.
Marcum has 18 seasons under his belt, all as a head coach. He enters his 12th season in Tampa Bay, and prior to that served as the head coach of the Detroit Drive and Denver Dynamite. Under his guidance his teams have won seven ArenaBowl titles and have played in 10 of the 19 championship games.
Storm assistant coach Dave Ewart is in his fourth season with the Storm and his 11th season in the AFL. Prior to joining the Storm he served as head coach of the Florida Bobcats. He has also been the head coach of the Texas Terror and St. Louis Stampede and served as an assistant with the Bobcats, Stampede, New England Sea Wolves, and Cleveland
Special teams coach Jimmy Dunn has coached arena football for 10 years. He was the head coach with the Miami Hooters in 1994 and Charleston Swamp Foxes of the arenafootball2 from 2000-2002. Also, he has served as offensive coordinator for the Cincinnati Rockers, Miami Hooters, Charlotte Rage and special teams coach for the Orlando Predators.
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