The Changes Pay Off

View From the Press Box

Joe Kauffman
Technical Editor

July 27, 1997

TAMPA, Fla. - Storm Coach and General Manager Tim Marcum has made many changes to the team's roster throughout the season. It all came together Saturday night against the Florida Bobcats (4-9) as the game was dominated by two players who did not wear Tampa Bay uniforms at the beginning of the season. It was the play of OS Wayne Walker and FB/LB Andre Bowden that led the Storm (7-6) to a 48-22 victory over the "Showcase Tour '97" Bobcats.

Just in case you are wondering, I did refer to Wayne Walker as the offensive specialist. Saturday night he replaced George LaFrance at the position, as the league's greatest receiver was moved to WR/DB. It was the first time that LaFrance has not played the position since 1988, according to Coach Marcum. He did not, however, play a single down on defense. Walker, who has only played three games for the Storm this season had six receptions for 67 yards and two touchdowns. He also averaged 27.3 yards on four kickoff returns and two missed-field goal returns for 24 yards. With this outstanding performance, Walker was named Player of the Game.

"He is exciting on those runbacks," said Marcum of Walker, who gave the Storm an average starting field position of their own 21-yard-line on kickoffs.

Florida Coach "Babe" Parilli was not surprised by Walker's performance.

"We knew that [Walker] is a deep runner. We couldn't get to the QB (Willis). He makes two moves and our guy couldn't cover him."

Bowden, the other new face, is actually making an ArenaBall comeback. After playing for the Storm from 1991-1993, he spent the last three years in the NFL and the World League. In the win over the Bobcats, Bowden scored four touchdowns for the second time this season and also recorded two quarterback sacks on Florida QB Clemente Gordon. It's no wonder that Bowden was named Ironman of the Game.

The night did not belong completely to new faces though. With 13:34 remaining in the game, Storm DS Tracey Perkins intercepted a Gordon pass at the goal-line intended for Bobcats WR/DB Millard Hamilton and returned it to the Florida eight-yard-line. The pickoff was Perkins twelfth of the season, breaking a record set by Durwood Roquemore of the Chicago Bruisers in 1988. The record had been tied three other times:in 1992, 1993 and 1996. He now has 29 interceptions for his career, which moves him into second place on the all-time AFL interceptions list behind Roquemore (50). Perkins is the only player on the Storm to have played in the innaugural game at the Florida Suncoast Dome, a 51-38 loss to the arch-rival Orlando Predators.

The win over Florida was huge, especially with Albany losing. The Storm are now in eighth place in the standings, and with a Milwaukee loss and a win over San Jose next week, the Storm could be seeded as high as sixth. Winning three out of the last four games, the Storm are building up momentum for what could be a stretch run in the playoffs. They are not likely to play in the Ice Palace anymore this year, but they still have a good shot at winning it all.

That's my view from the press box.

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