TAMPA BAY– The Tampa Bay Storm will open its doors and welcome the Portland Thunder on “Fiesta Night” Saturday, May 3 at the Tampa Bay Times Forum. A win for the Storm would put the team back on track with a .500 record and break its current three-game losing streak. Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m.
This will be the first-ever meeting between the Storm and Thunder as Portland, the league’s youngest franchise, comes to Tampa Bay to face the league’s oldest franchise. While the AFL saw a club in Portland in the late-90s, this is the first time that the Storm has faced a team from Portland.
The Storm looks to get back on track after suffering its third loss in as many games this past Saturday. Coming out of the gate fast, the Storm jumped on the Shock, holding a one-point lead into the second half. However, the Shock tightened its defense and put the pressure on quarterback Randy Hippeard, sacking him four times and forcing an interception. Hippeard finished the night completing 25-of-43 passes for 302 yards and four touchdowns. Hippeard also had 300+ passing yards for a second straight game. T.T. Toliver had another big night, catching 10 passes for 112 yards and passing the 12,000 career receiving yards mark. He now has 12,091 yards in his career.
The Storm defense showed its worth by holding the Shock to just 53 points; five points lower than its average heading into Week 7. It was the first time the team held an opponent to under 60 points since its 63-49 victory over the Philadelphia Soul on April 4. Storm mac linebacker Rodney Beamon and fullback Dexter Jackson each had a sack, while defensive back Chris Smith added a forced fumble. The defensive line now has 10 sacks.
For the Storm to succeed it must get its offense started early and perform for an entire 60 minutes. The team scored just 41 points in two of its past three games. In addition, the team must look to succeed in all phases of the game and finish the fourth quarter strongly. The Storm has been outscored by 24 points in the final stanza of its contests. The offense will rely on Hippeard and his entire receiving corps. This season Hippeard has connected on 155-of-254 passes for 2,038 passing yards and 44 touchdowns. Hippeard is second in the league in passing yards and third in the league in touchdowns.
The Thunder is coming off of a win, its first in franchise history, over the Jacksonville Sharks. The team was led by quarterback Kyle Rowley, who went 27-of-46, for 323 yards and eight touchdowns. Rowley has played in two games since joining the Thunder and his top target has been wide receiver Douglas McNeil III. The two have connected 18 times for 262 yards and six touchdowns in the past two meetings. While the Thunder ranks 13th in scoring offense, this number should improve as the team begins to gel with Rowley under center.
Portland ranks in the Top-5 for defense in several categories, including total defense (fifth), rushing defense (fourth) and pass defense (fifth). Portland has a knack for getting after the ball with 11 interceptions on the season. The defensive backfield has reeled in an interception in six games played, and is roamed by defensive backs Eric Crocker and Bryce Peila. Both have four interceptions apiece. Tampa Bay needs to protect the football in order to score on this backfield.
The Five-Time World Champion Tampa Bay Storm enters its 27th season in the Arena Football League. The Storm will host “Fiesta Night,” Saturday, May 3 when it takes on the Portland Thunder on AMALIE Motor Oil Field at the Tampa Bay Times Forum. For more specific details regarding single-game pricing and availability, please contact the Storm ticket office at 813.301.6600 or visit www.tampabaystorm.com. Season tickets can be purchased by visiting TampaBayStorm.com or by calling 813.301.6600. For group sales fans can contact 813.301.6900. Additionally fans and sponsors can follow the Storm on Facebook (Tampa Bay Storm) or Twitter (@tampabaystorm) for up to date news and exclusive content.