Thomas: At Home in the Dome and the PalaceView From the Press Box
May 11, 1997
TAMPA, Fla. - In a game where the offense performed only when necessary, Tampa Bay Storm WR/LB Stevie Thomas shone brightest through the smoke from the pregame pyrotechnic display. In his first game in the Storm's new home, the Ice Palace, Thomas led all receivers with 11 catches for 145 yards and three touchdowns. He also batted down a pass from Bobcats quarterback Tom Luginbill while on defense.
"It's nice. The fans are right there on top of you," said Thomas, referring to the Ice Palace. "It's a little bit different in the [Thunder]Dome, where you got this big looming space in between. I'm on the sideline talking with the fans...giving them a five."
Thomas is one of two Storm players who still remains from the 1991 ArenaBowl championship season. A police officer with the St. Petersburg Police Department in the off-season, he holds many team and AFL records, including most touchdowns (four) in an ArenaBowl (1991 versus Detroit) .Last year, Thomas finished second on the team in receiving behind George LaFrance. He had 1089 yards on 74 receptions with 21 touchdowns. During his previous six seasons, he had caught over three miles worth of passes (5526 yards), which makes him the Tampa Bay Storm's all-time leading receiver.
"He's a great receiver," Storm quarterback Peter Tom Willis said, referring to Thomas. "He's big...and when your big in this league that helps, because the field is so short."
After a 33-yard touchdown reception from Willis with 10:20 remaining in the second quarter, the team started making mistakes. George LaFrance ran an incorrect route which led to a double-team on Thomas, preventing a sure Tampa Bay touchdown. Thomas also dropped a few sure completions. He finished the first half with four receptions for 74 yards. The Storm were leading 15-7 at the break.
"In the first half, things weren't going to well, so I knew I had to step it up in the second half," Thomas said about his dropped balls.
"What can you say? How many big plays has this guy made around here? And also [Thomas can] run with the ball after he catches it. That's what I like," Storm coach Tim Marcum replied when asked about Thomas' performance.
In the second half, Thomas had two touchdowns for eight and 14 yards, respectively. In a weak moment after his second TD, he received an eight-yard penalty for spiking the football into the stands. At that point, the was winning 31-13 with 7:25 remaining in the fourth quarter. A similar penalty was called the previous night against Arizona (1-1) in the Rattlers' 32-31 win over the Orlando Predators (1-1).
By outperforming everyone in the game, Stevie Thomas earned the MVP award against the Bobcats in the first ever Storm game in the Ice Palace. His teammates played a sub-par game and the Florida Bobcats had no really outstanding performances. With his 13.2-yard per catch average, Thomas led the team to what Marcum called "an ugly win." But ugly wins are wins nonetheless, and both Thomas and the Storm will take them.
That's my view from the press box.
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