Tampa Bay Storm game notes
The Tampa Bay Storm face a familiar foe in the Columbus Destroyers this week. Although the teams have only met four times (all Storm victories) prior to Saturday night's engagement, the Destroyers are loaded with former Storm talent. Destroyer QB John Kaleo, WR/LB David Saunders, OL/DL Kelvin Kinney were a large part of the Storm's 2003 World Championship, OL/DL Mike Sutton played in Tampa last season and WR/DB Carl Bond was on the Storm practice squad in 2002. Both teams have playoff aspirations with 7-7 records. The Storm are trying to extend their league record consecutive playoff appearances to 16 and the Destroyers are trying to make the playoffs for the third time in eight seasons. Storm QB Shane Stafford is coming off his sixth 300-plus yard passing performance of the season. Lawrence Samuels leads all Storm receivers with 102 receptions for 1,162 yards and 19 touchdowns. In the four Storm victories over the Destroyers (the Destroyers played in Buffalo from 1999-2003) three have been on the road and the Storm have defeated the Destroyers by a combined score 235-130. Last season the two teams met during the last week of the season in Columbus and the Storm defeated the Destroyers, 78-53, to clinch their 15th consecutive playoff appearance.
The Storm kept their playoff hopes alive as they defeated the Kansas City Brigade, 58-42, last Saturday night behind the arm of Stafford and three touchdowns caught by Freddie Solomon. Stafford finished the evening completing 24 of 32 passes for 314 yards and six touchdown passes. Solomon caught 11 passes for 157 yards. Lynarise Elpheage was very productive coming off an ankle injury suffered in Austin in Week 12. He caught two passes for 20 yards and made, a team high, 10 stops on defense with three pass breakups. Week 14 brought with it new faces to the Storm defensive specialist position. For the first time in almost two full seasons neither Tramain Jones (MCL) nor Jonathan Ordway (PCL) suited up at defensive specialist. A rookie tandem of Leroy Smith and Floyd Young played to perfection as Smith made 9.5 tackles and Young made two stops making it difficult for Brigade QB Chris Sanders to find open receivers.
The Final Five
The Storm have a history of finishing strong in the team's history. They have never lost more than two of their final five games in any of their 15 seasons. The Storm have an all-time winning percentage of .773 (58-17) in their final five games of the season. Last season they went 3-2 in their final five en route to their 15th consecutive playoff appearance. They have gone 21-9 in the past six seasons:
- 2005 - 3-2
- 2004 - 5-0
- 2003 - 3-2
- 2002 - 3-2
- 2001 - 3-2
- 2000 - 4-1
They have gone undefeated in their final five three times (1995, 1999 and 2004). They have lost once seven times and have lost two games in their final five four times.
What's On Tap...
The combined record of the Storm's remaining two opponents is 14-14. Taking a look at the teams that are in playoff contention in the National Conference, the Storm will face the least winning record amongst teams that are vying for a playoff spot:
Combined Opponent Record
Tampa Bay 14-14
In recent years the Storm have been able to elude the "injury bug" and stay healthy throughout the course of the season. This season is proving to be very different from that in the past. Here are key injuries the Storm have encountered this season...
DATE PLAYER INJURY GAMES LOST
2/10 Freddie Solomon Plantar fascia tear 4
2/10 Tramain Jones Neck 2
3/9 Mondre Dickerson Ankle 3
3/12 Jarrod Penright Shoulder, groin 2
3/12 Nyle Wiren Shoulder 2
3/12 Buck Gurley Rotator cuff 4
3/18 Rod Williams Torn achilles 4 *
4/22 Tramain Jones MCL 2 *
4/22 Jonathan Ordway PCL sprain 2 x
* - Lost for the season x - out for this week
Stafford Season-to-Season Comparison
Last year Stafford had one of the most prolific seasons by any Storm signal caller, establishing several Storm season highs. He finished with 405 completions on 631 attempts for 4,522 yards and 83 touchdowns.
Stafford became the franchise leader in completions (Jay Gruden - 1,180) with his performance in Week 9 at Georgia. Coming into this week he is two touchdown passes shy of setting the franchise record for touchdown passes (Jay Gruden, 280).
Through 14 Games
ATT COMP PCT YDS TD's
2005 562 360 .641 3,928 71
2006 550 349 .635 4,176 76
Defying Father Time
Future Hall-of-Famer Lawrence Samuels continues to show that it's the little things that have made his 13-year career so successful. Amidst leading the Storm in receiving (102 receptions, 1,162 yards) this season and single-handedly rewriting the Storm record books, Samuels tied for fifth in the AFL in special teams tackles with 14.
In Week 11 versus San Jose, Samuels surpassed the 9,000 receiving yard mark for his career and is now seventh all-time in the AFL with 9,224. Samuels passed Storm great George LaFrance (9,004) on the AFL's all-time receiving yards list. Earlier this season Samuels passed another Storm great, Stevie Thomas, as the franchise leader in receiving yards.
This season marks the third time in his career that Samuels' has gone over the 1,000 yard reception mark. He has accomplished this feat in three of the last four years (2003, 2005 and 2006).
Certain Leads the AFL in TFL
Fifth-year lineman Ernest Certain has corralled quarterbacks on four different occasions this season setting a career best for sacks in a season. In Week 2's win over Grand Rapids Certain put his clamps on Rampage QB Jose Davis for a sack and in Week 8 he put New York Dragons QB Nick Browder on the turf twice totaling a loss of five yards. It was the first two-sack performance of Certain's career. Last week versus the Brigade, Certain was able to get to QB Chris Sanders for a loss of two yards.
The Storm record for sacks in a season is held by Les Barley who had eight in 1998. Entering the week Certain leads the league with nine combined tackles for loss (including sacks).
Starting Off On the Right Note
The Storm have scored on their opening drive in 13 of 14 games this season. The 13 opening drives have all ended with a touchdown (10 passing, 3 rushing).
The Storm are 6-2 this season when leading after the first 15 minutes of play. They have outscored their opponents 173-155 in the first quarter this season.
Ben-d Don't Break
Second-year man OS Demetris Bendross certainly makes good use of his time and speed on the playing field. In nine games this season he has caught 45 passes for 686 yards and nine touchdowns, including a 182-yard performance in Week 5's win versus Austin. That tied him for fifth in franchise history for receiving yards in a game with Samuels (2006) and Freddie Solomon (2004).
Bendross has also taken over the kick return duties, this season has returned 30 kickoffs for 524 yards, an average of 17.5 yards every time he touches the football.
Last season, in three games played, he made 13 receptions for 212 yards and five touchdowns.
Since returning from his plantar fascia injury in Week 8 against the New York Dragons, Freddie Solomon leads the Storm with 10 touchdown receptions in the last seven weeks of play.
Freddie missed five games last season due to an ankle injury but was able to corral 66 passes for 849 yards and 16 touchdowns. This season in nine games, the fifth-year man from South Carolina State University, has caught 57 passes for 800 yards and 13 touchdowns. Last week against the Brigade he had a season high 11 receptions for 157 yards and three touchdowns.
Kicking With Precision
Rookie kicker Bill Gramatica has converted on 69 of 75 (.920) point after attempts since February 19. Against the Kansas City Brigade in Week 6 he connected on 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 sixth in the AFL in points scored for kickers with 118 and is eighth (minimum of 30 attempts) in the league with a .897 conversion percentage on point after attempts.
No Harm, No Foul
The Storm offense is the least penalized team in the AFL. They average 5.4 penalties per game for an average of 33.1 yards per contest. Second in the league is the Orlando Predators averaging 34 yards.
The least penalties they've had in a game this season is one for five yards against the Georgia Force in Week 3. The most times the Storm have been caught "red handed" is nine for 65 yards against the New York Dragons in Week 8.
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).
Defending the Ord-way
Jonathan Ordway leads the team in tackles this season with 78.5, which is also the seventh-best mark in the league (67 solo, 23 assisted). He is third in the league with 19 passes defended.
A season ago Ordway set the third-best mark in Storm history with 87.5 tackles. Teammate Tramain Jones set the all-time record in the same season with 114.
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 and tossed for 458 yards, a Storm record, Week 5 against the Orlando Predators. That gave him a two week total of 882 yards passing on 62 completions and 15 touchdowns.
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.). Taplin and Bullard are currently on IR.
Ten players on the current 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, Kevin Dogins and Steve White, wide receiver/linebacker Mickey Peters, receiver/defensive backs Alphonso Roundtree and Leroy Smith and defensive specialist Floyd Young.
Gramatica saw time in the NFL for four seasons with the Arizona Cardinals and Miami Dolphins. Ricker and Smith spent time in the Chicago Bears camp in 2005. Alphonso Roundtree spent three seasons with the Miami Dolphins (2003-05). White played on the defensive line with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers from 1996-2001 and with the New York Jets in 2002. Young played with the Buccaneers from 1997-2000 and one year with the Chicago Bears in 2001.
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.
Kuharchek Named Quality Control/Player Development Coach
Pete Kuharchek, 58, a native of Johnstown, Pennsylvania, graduated from the University of Tampa in 1969 and is a part of the University of Tampa Athletic Hall of Fame. He joins the company of Super Bowl Champions Fred Solomon and John Matuzak amongst others in that prestigious group. Kuharchek was the Spartans' leading tackler and defensive MVP in 1967 and 1968.
Kuharchek's coaching resume includes stops with the Tampa Bay Bandits from 1983-85 as linebacker coach, the Orlando Thunder of the World League as defensive backs coach in 1992, defensive coordinator for the University of Texas at El Paso from 1993-95, and with the Rhein Fire of NFL Europe as defensive coordinator from 1996-00 and head coach from 2001-05.
As defensive coordinator for the Fire he helped them reach the World Bowl five times while taking home the championships in 1998 and 2000. He also coached in one other championship game with Orlando in 1992.
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