1997 Results | Game Coverage

Storm Grounds Hawks, 27-9

By Andrew Mason
Content Editor

Tracey Perkins
Tracey Perkins, shown here picking off a Mike Perez pass in 1996, made four tackles, broke up three passes and notched an interception to catalyze the Storm's secondary. Photo by Chris Arnold.
TAMPA, Fla. - Finally, it's turning around.

After a seemingly interminable three-game losing streak that saw two home losses, quarterback injuries, prodigious amounts of penalties, three trades, three players placed on waivers, two players placed on the exempt list, three refusing to report and another activated from exempt, the Storm finally found a game worth crowing about.

"Wow," a relieved Storm coach Tim Marcum said as he sat down to talk with the media. "Oh man. That's the kind of football that we've been looking to play around here."

And that kind of football involved making hits, playing defense and finding just enough offense to win, as the Storm allowed just nine points---the second-lowest total ever in Storm history---to win 27-9 in front of 11,461 at the Ice Palace on Saturday night. The 36 total points were the lowest in any Storm game, breaking the record of 43 points when the Storm beat the Denver Dynamite 30-13 on July 13, 1991.

Coming into the game, the CityHawks were averaging 43.0 points and 262.1 yards per game. Against the Storm, they managed nine and 141, respectively. Not a bad effort considering that the week before this game had been defined by roster tumult, brutal practices and a desperation that comes from a franchise-worst losing streak.

"I don't have to put any pressure on them," Marcum said. "The guys that are still here want to win, they want to play hard and they have played hard."

Pressure? That depends on the perspective.

"Coach got on our ass every day and made us work hard," lineman Sylvester Bembery said. "That made a difference."

Bembery added: "I had Coach Marcum looking at me funny every day and I got tired of that [solid excrement] so I had to make something happen."

He made it happen on defense, getting consistent pressure on CityHawk QB Mike Perez and forcing him into numerous incompletions and overthrows. Perez, who had averaged 309 yards per game in three previous games against the Storm, only managed 131 on 13-for-34 passing.

"He was getting whacked pretty good," New York coach Lary Kuharich said.

Offensively, the Storm scored just 27 points, which equaled the team's lowest winning total, set when they beat New Orleans 27-17 on June 15, 1991. The offense wasn't incredibly effective, but it was good enough to win, as WR/DB Lawrence Samuels and OS George LaFrance combined for 16 catches for 216 yards and two touchdowns. Such receiving totals were all the more impressive considering the battered state of the Storm's quarterback.

Although he didn't see one minute of action in practice until Thursday thanks to his nagging rib injuries, quarterback Peter Tom Willis turned in a solid performance, completing 20 of 38 passes for 248 yards and three touchdowns. Going in to Saturday, his ribs were still thought to be merely bruised. However, a pregame examination proved otherwise.

"You can't say enough about this guy," Marcum said. "Now we find out he has two ribs that are broken---we x-rayed him before the game. He's out there playing with two broken ribs and playing a position...where you just get the crap knocked out of you every play. So you tell me that this guy's not tough."

Willis was pounded on nearly every play, and on many plays, CityHawk linemen jumped as they hit him, providing an extra bit of power to the hit. Given the consistency of their mass blitzes and aerial hits, it seemed that the CityHawks taking a page from Albany and New Jersey's books as they looked like they were doing their best to try and take out the battered signal-caller.

Sylvester Bembery
Sylvester Bembery, shown here lining up in a 1996 game, was a persistent presence in the CityHawk backfield, hounding QB Mike Perez on nearly every play. Photo by Chris Arnold.
But Willis responded, playing with a toughness that mirrored that of his teammates. Perhaps the new resolve was born in the week's practices, which included a Wednesday scuffle between two longtime Storm players, Bembery and Stevie Thomas. Both responded with great games---Bembery's that was mentioned earlier, and Thomas' three-catch, one touchdown, three-tackle effort that showed his development as a two-way player.

"We kind of got down on ourselves, we weren't getting any pressures, so we knew we had to step up," Bembery said. "Stevie's a winner, I'm a winner. Both of us were disappointed, and emotions just fired up. I think it might have helped us more than hurt us. Stevie's a great competitor, I would never want to fight Stevie. It was just one of those things."

Perhaps the soft-spoken Samuels spoke of the Storm's new attitude best.

"The fire's in our eyes now," he said.

With that fire, the Storm gets ready for the frying pan as they move on to face the archrival Orlando Predators for the 17th time. The series is tied at eight games apiece, and although the Storm is two games behind the 6-2 Predators, there is little question that this will be the most pivotal game of the year so far. Kickoff on next Friday night in the Orlando Arena comes at 7:40 p.m. The game will be televised statewide on Sunshine Network. If you want to go to the game, you can order tickets by phone through TicketMaster or in person at the Orlando Arena. For ticket availability (the game is expected to be a near-sellout or full sellout), call the Orlando Predators' ticket office at (407) 87-ARENA (27362).


Media Madness - If you went home and watched SportsCenter on ESPN, you might have seen a surprise after Major League Soccer highlights---the Storm. The popular sports news program showed four clips from the game. The only problem? The graphic after the highlights that listed the score said "Tampa" rather than "Tampa Bay." When will they learn? We call the teams here "Tampa Bay" so the entire Bay Area from New Port Richey to Sarasota to Lakeland to St. Petersburg to Tarpon Springs and elsewhere can feel more connected to the team. We call them "Tampa Bay" because our area is more than just the city of Tampa. Get the point, people.

Wait, there's more...

The MSG cable coverage was piped into the press box, and one graphic before the game showed that Kuharich held a 7-1 record against Marcum. The game notes put out by the CityHawks reiterated this. The only question is, how? In the AFL, Marcum and Kuharich have only met once with both as head coaches, that coming in the 1993 ArenaBowl that the Kuharich-led Storm won over Marcum's Detroit Drive. They met in the 1992 and 1993 preseasons, splitting two games. And when Kuharich was a Storm assistant in 1991, his team beat the Drive twice. But that's only five games! Both worked in the World League, but Kuharich never coached a game---he was fired before the 1995 season. Kuharich spent nearly all of his career in the Canadian Football League, an organization in which Marcum has never worked. The two coached together once in 1984, with the USFL's San Antonio Gunslingers. In spite of evidence to the contrary, New York public relations manager Jeff Gorlechen insisted that he was correct. So, okay, we'll buy his numbers for now. But for a fact, we know that Marcum and Kuharich have only met twice as head coaches in the regular season. After the Storm's win on Saturday, they have a 1-1 split. That's all that matters.

Injury Update - The Storm came out of this game relatively unscathed. Willis continued to play through his injuries, and the game was not stopped for any Storm players getting banged up.

New Faces - Five days after being signed by the Storm, OL/DL Tony Woods saw substantial playing time as he made his AFL debut. Wearing the same number as the departed Kent Wells, he made a tackle and played consistently on both sides of the ball.

"[Woods was] a completely different number 77 out there," Marcum said, later adding, "Tony Woods is going to be one heck of a football player around here."

In addition, June line acquisitions Wilky Bazile and Michael Thornton turned in solid games.

"The changes that we made---the people, the new flesh and blood of people mixed with the guys that worked their tail off and played hard around here...was the difference in our football team," Marcum said.

Awards - The Wilson Player of the Game was Willis. The Riddell Ironman of the game was Bembery.

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