A record crowd of 14,041 fans braved torrential rains to see the 52nd battle between two teams separated by 1-4 highway and they weren’t disappointed. A key forced fumble by linebacker Marcus Everett sealed the victory for the Orlando Predators 55-48 over the Tampa Bay Storm, who won for only the third time in eleven contests this season.
They were led by 18 year AFL vet Aaron Garcia who was 24-37 for 289 yards 6 touchdowns and two interceptions and Prechae Rodriguez who had 12 catches 157 yards and 5 of those touchdowns including a spectacular one-handed catch which kicked off the first quarter scoring for the Predators. The Tampa Bay Storm kept it close thanks to a great game by quarterback Adrian McPherson who was 24-41 for 314 yards 7 touchdowns and 0 interceptions but they couldn’t overcome two costly turnover-on-downs and a pair of fumbles by normally sure-handed receiver Joe Hills and reserve rookie Jason Chery who was forced into a greater role on offense after starting receiver Michael Lindsey was ejected for his participation in a fight during the ensuing kick-off after the Storm had taken a 35-34 lead in the 3rd quarter.
With the clock winding down in the 4th quarter the Predators looked to seal the deal, but an ill-advised pass by Garcia was intercepted and returned for an apparent touchdown by cornerback Rashad Barksdale. Replay later showed that the corner had been forced into the sideline wall at the five yard line, and the comeback attempt was thwarted three plays later when Marcus Everett emerged out of the pile with the ball after having dislodged it from rookie receiver Jason Chery, who was fighting for extra yards.
The Storm look to get back on track when they travel to New Orleans to battle the 2-8 VooDoo, while the Predators look to build winning momentum when they host the Cleveland Gladiators at the Amway Center next week.
Star of the Game:
Prechae Rodriguez– The second year receiver from Auburn University made his former Storm teammates look bad often throughout the night and when the defensive backs were able to stick with him he still made a difficult catch look relatively easy.
Goat of the Game:
If not for the fumble by Jason Chery, this could have easily been Aaron Garcia who had a very good overall game but almost ruined it when he threw an interception in the endzone late in the game. However Michael Lindsey takes this award because his ejection in the third quarter made an already thin receiving corp paper-thin. As the elder statesmen of receivers, his third year with the Storm, he has to be smarter than that and not get baited into a retaliation fight because the referee always catches the guy who responds.
Eleven: The number of penalties the Storm had for a total loss yardage of 68
Seven: The total number of dropped passes by Storm receivers
987-71-16: These are the 2013 receiving yards, receptions, and touchdowns for Greg Ellington who is currently excused from the team because he is playing in the Canadian Football League with the Hamilton Tigercats
85.3: The distance in miles from the Amway Center in Orlando to the Tampa Bay Times Forum
(photos courtesy of Chow and Scott photography)