1997 Results | Game Coverage
Who: Iowa Barnstormers at Tampa Bay Storm
Kicking Off...In a rematch of last year's ArenaBowl, the Storm looks to solidify its playoff position as the Iowa Barnstormers come to town. The Storm has won three of its last four since a 3-4 start, including two in a row. Tampa Bay has also won its last two home games after losing three straight in May and June. And did you know that...thanks to a season-high 68 points in last week's win over Anaheim, the Storm's average per game increased from to 33.6 to 36.7. However Tampa Bay still ranks 13th in the league in scoring with 404 total points.
The Coaches...Iowa - John Gregory, 30-12 record in third season with the Barnstormers, 30-12 in three AFL seasons.
Tampa Bay - Tim Marcum, 34-9 in three seasons with the Storm, 89-21 in nine AFL seasons.
In 1997...Tampa Bay (6-5) - Defeated Arizona 42-30, defeated Florida 38-19, lost to Orlando 43-17, defeated Nashville 42-26, lost to Milwaukee 51-42, lost to Albany 53-31, lost to New Jersey 44-28, defeated New York 27-9, lost to Orlando 54-30, defeated Texas 40-31, defeated Anaheim 68-43.
Iowa (8-3) - Defeated Texas 63-45, lost to New Jersey 45-21, defeated Portland 60-13, defeated Albany 68-57, defeated Anaheim 63-42, defeated Portland 56-36, lost to San Jose 37-31, defeated Milwaukee 72-53, lost to Florida 68-55, defeated Milwaukee 47-29, defeated Orlando 60-56.
Barnstormers to Watch...QB Kurt Warner - It would not be much of a stretch to say that he has assumed the mantle of being the AFL's best quarterback since the retirement of Jay Gruden last fall. After being named to the All-AFL first team last year ahead of Gruden, he has stepped his game up to another level. Warner leads the AFL in yards per game (289.3), is second in touchdowns with 57 and is second in passer rating among starting quarterbacks with a 116.8 mark. In his only previous game against the Storm, he completed 27 of 42 passes for 316 yards and four touchdowns. However, he was intercepted three times and failed to convert a touchdown on a first-and-goal at the Storm's two-yard-line in the final minutes of ArenaBowl X. A touchdown would have given the Barnstormers the lead and perhaps the championship.
WR/DB Lamart Cooper - Willis Jacox may have gotten all the attention in the last two seasons, but it is actually Cooper who stands as the Barnstormers' leading receiver through 11 games. He leads the Barnstormers in receptions (63), receiving yardage (945) and receiving touchdowns (16). He has also added 406 yards on kickoff and missed field goal returns. He also ha s a good track record against the Storm, as he lead Iowa receivers with 94 yards on five catches, including one for a 30-yard touchdown, in last year's ArenaBowl.
DS Todd Harrington - No one in Iowa history has made more tackles (184---including 145 solo stops) or intercepted more passes (13) than Harrington, the man who has been the team's defensive stalwart since its 1995 inception. But 1997 has been his best season, and it's good enough to earn him consideration for the All-AFL first team. Harrington's 76 total tackles are second in the league, and his 66 solos are first. He also ranks second in the league in interceptions with seven picks, two behind the Storm's Perkins for the league lead. This will be his first game against the Storm, as he missed last year's postseason with a knee injury.
K Mike Black - Two years ago, he was the league's most accurate and prolific kicker. This year, he's neither, but is still posting strong numbers, having hit 68 of 78 extra points. Perhaps most prominently, he has hit 10 of 20 field goals, an excellent percentage for an AFL kicker. The dimunitive (5-6) Black has accounted for 351 points over his three years with the Barnstormers, 98 coming through 11 games of 1997.
Noting the Barnstormers...Comeback Kids - This may be a good time for the Storm to face Iowa, because the Barnstormers enter on the heels of their most galvanizing and draining win of the season, a 60-56 come-from-behind triumph over Orlando in Des Moines. The game saw Iowa OS Willis Jacox get injured, but his slack was picked up by Cooper and WR/DB Leonard Conley. Conley, in particular, had his best game of the season, catching eight of Warner's passes for 107 yards and three touchdowns. Warner ended up throwing four eight scores, including two to Cooper and two more to WR/DB Carlos James, including the game winner with 15 seconds left. The game will be remembered for not just its excitement but the comebacks that Iowa had to make. Orlando led by margins of 14-0, 21-7, 35-14, 38-21, 45-46 and 48-39 before Iowa finally assumed control. The Barnstormers outscored the Predators 21-8 to close the game and move to 8-3, knocking Orlando out of their perch as the team with the league's best record.
Step By Step - The theme of Iowa's media guide is "Taking the Final Step." This, of course, is in reference to the Barnstormers' loss to Tampa Bay in last year's ArenaBowl. It's also a consistent theme from year to year. After a 1995 semifinal loss to Orlando, Iowa's media guide theme was "Taking the next step." That they did, going one round further than they did last year. So if they take the final step this year and win the ArenaBowl, then it begs the question---what will be their "step" in 1998?
Tampa Bay/Iowa Connections - Iowa WR/DB Leonard Conley is a native of Tarpon Springs and played on the Spongers' 1986 team that went to the state championship game.
Noting the Storm...Statistically Speaking - Tampa Bay ranks second in scoring defense, giving up 36.7 points per game, and second in total defense, allowing 211.3 yards per game. Orlando ranks ahead of the Storm in both categories...Offensively, Tampa Bay is 13th in scoring offense, putting up just 36.7 points per outing, and is 12th in total offense, averaging 247.7 yards per contest. However, the Storm is sixth in first downs with 175...The Storm is 13th in the league with eight sacks. 25 percent of those came in last week's game alone...No team has made fewer extra points than the Storm (36)...Perkins is first in the league with nine interceptions and is sixth with 13 passes defensed...LaFrance is sixth in the league in scoring with 116 points, is sixth in touchdowns with 19, ranks fourth in receptions (75) and sixth in receiving yardage (922).
Injury Front - WR/DB Larry Kennedy missed Wednesday's practice with a pulled hamstring. Continuing their stints on the injured reserve list are WR/DB Wayne Williams, WR/DB Walter Sutton, FB/LB Cedric McKinnon and lineman Michael Thornton.
From the Mouth of Marcum...On Iowa - "They are not that much different from last year. Every guy that made an impact for them is still there. They're going to be pumped up for this game and we know that."
On the Fans - "It's a big one, the biggest of the year so far. A great crowd could really help us out, and I think we're going to get it---we're promoting this one hard."
Series History...The Storm and the 'Stormers have met just once, but it was a reasonably important matchup---ArenaBowl X to close the 1996 season.
08/26/96 - Tampa Bay 42, Iowa 38 - It was the first time the Barnstormers and Storm met up, and the game couldn't have been any bigger, or, as it turned out, any better. The game saw four lead changes in the first half before Ron Moran's one-yard run tied the score at 28-28 going into halftime. After that, the Storm took control---relatively speaking---but never truly gained a comfortable upper hand. As it turned out, the Storm would take the lead for good on a 21-yard pass from Jay Gruden to Ivan Caesar with 5:46 left in the third quarter. Iowa responded with a Mike Black field goal on their next possession, but that was not enough as the Storm motored right back down the field, finally scoring on a seven-yard pass from Gruden to Game MVP Stevie Thomas 3:05 into the fourth quarter. Iowa responded with a Warner touchdown pass to Chris Spencer before the game turned into a resounding defensive struggle in the final minutes, culminating with a heroic goal-line stand by the Storm in the final minute that gave Tampa Bay their second straight title. The game was witnessed by a vocal and intervening crowd of 11,411. Vocal because they were loud, drowning out Gruden's signals most of the game, and intervening because fans in the front row repeatedly grabbed Storm receivers as they ran sideline routes in front of the boards. But that ninth defender did not keep the Storm from a fulfilling championship, their fourth and the sixth for coach Tim Marcum. Box Score
Copyright © 1996 - 1999 by Gale Force Design. All rights reserved.