It's Not Odd After All

View From the Press Box

Joe Kauffman
Technical Editor

August 16, 1996

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. - The Tampa Bay Storm finally did what many Storm fans thought would never happen--they are going to an even-numbered ArenaBowl after defeating the Arizona Rattlers 55-54 in the last game they will ever play at the Thunderdome.

The most successful active team in the league, the Storm have gone to ArenaBowls V, VII and IX, but they lost in the semifinals in 1992 and in the quarterfinals in 1994. Now, they are going to ArenaBowl X.

In a game played between the winners of the last three championships (and four of the last five), the Tampa Bay defense came up big once again. Jay Gruden had three interceptions, two of which were telegraphed. The Rattlers earned a relatively easy 17 points thanks to these offensive mistakes. The play of the game, however, was all Tampa Bay Storm. Arizona's two-point attempt following a touchdown with nine seconds left in the game was not even close. Bo Kelly never had a chance as he was contained by Lynn Bradford and finished off by Sylvester Bembery for a huge loss. Bembery, who has the words "Take No Prisoners" posted on his locker strongly pointed out that the Storm "stuck together."

Arizona QB Sherdrick Bonner's only interception thrown was the single defensive score in an otherwise offensive game, as Stevie Thomas returned the pick eight yards to bring the Storm within five points early in the third quarter. That was one of two TDs scored by Thomas, one of the Storm's most popular players. Gruden tied his playoff record of seven touchdown passes, five going to Storm OS George LaFrance. Storm kicker Jorge Cimmadevilla was four-of-seven on PATs, but he nailed a 46-yard field goal, the longest kick of the night.

ArenaBowl X will be firsts for both the Storm and their opponents, the Iowa Barnstormers. Iowa will host the ArenaBowl in their arena, "The Barn." The second-year team is making their first ever appearance in the Arena Football's championship game. The Storm will appear in their fourth ArenaBowl in six years, and the first time ever in their second consecutive ArenaBowl. Until this year, the Storm had only gone to the championship game in odd-numbered years.

The Storm have also had new uniform designs in each of those years. The midnight blue, metallic gold and white will be making a return trip to the league finals, something that the red, white and blue Zubas, and the silver and black uniforms never did.

When asked about his eight ArenaBowl appearance in eight years as a head coach, Storm Coach Tim Marcum said that "[ArenaBall] is a player's game."

Marcum, whose annual goal is to win the championship, said the use of clock-time during the game was his main concern. He would not, however, second-guess Rattlers coach Danny White's choice to go on fourth-and-seven at the beginning of the fourth quarter, giving the Storm possession of the ball at the five yard line following the failed attempt.

Afterward, Marcum gave the Storm the weekend off, and since ArenaBowl X is on a Monday night, practice would resume on Tuesday.

That's my view from the press box.

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