Victory Over Florida Helps Storm Keep From Dissipating

Sam Sez

Sam Wolfson
Contributing Editor

July 31, 1997

TAMPA, Fla. - The Tampa Bay Storm finished their home schedule on Saturday night in the same way they began it back in May. They beat the heck out of the Florida Bobcats.

With the 48-22 victory, the Storm boosted their struggling playoff chances. If they had lost the game, they would have needed at least some help to make it into the playoffs. Now, the team can be secure in the fact that if they win against the San Jose Sabercats in San Jose on Saturday they will be in the playoffs. Many of the Storm players said after the game that they had to treat Saturday's upcoming game as if it were a playoff game.

"We've got to win it," Storm QB Peter Tom Willis said, "You can't go in and get too 'this and that' about the game. We just got to go in and not make mistakes and play hard, and if we do that, I feel we'll win the game."

With the exception of the game against Iowa, the Storm has looked good in recent weeks. And in that game, only the Storm's lapses in the last minute of each half kept the team from having a good chance to win the game.

Much of the credit must go to FB/LB Andre Bowden. Bowden scored 4 rushing TD's for the second time Saturday night in only his fifth game with the team. He had a huge game on defense as well, making 4 tackles, 1 assist, 2 sacks, and one forced fumble. This easily earned him the game's Ironman award.

While the addition of Bowden be the biggest move of the season, Storm coach Tim Marcum made one of the most shocking moves as well. Wayne Walker started at offensive specialist in only his third game in the league. The shock is that he replaced perrenial star George LaFrance. This is the first time that LaFrance has not started for Marcum since 1988.

The impact was immediate. The Storm did better on kick returns than it had all season, with Walker twice returning kicks inside Florida Bobcat territory. While LaFrance used to be the best in the league at returning kicks, this season, it seemed as if he was just a step slower. Walker's blazing speed was also evident on offense where he caught 4 passes for 56 yards, including one 35 yard touchdown pass. Walker's efforts earned him honors as the game's MVP.

"What can you say? That guy (Walker) is exciting," Marcum said, "He's exiting to watch play. He's exciting on those runbacks. It was a very tough decision I had to make. I sat down George as the offensive specialist for the first time since 1988. George fully understands. As you see, Wayne [Walker] is something special."

In all likelihood, even if the Storm does make the playoffs, they will not have a home game for only the second time in their history. So, Saturday night's game was a good sendoff to give the fans. As icing on the cake, Tracey Perkins broke the AFL single season record for interceptions with his 12th of the season.

Before the Storm can even think about the playoffs, it must worry about the business at hand. A loss to San Jose could put an early end to the Storm's season. Despite all of the troubles the team has faced this season, they know that they are only 4 wins away from claiming their third consecutive ArenaBowl trophy. And in this league, anything can happen.

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