1997 Results | Game Coverage

Storm   at   SaberCats
(9-6) (13-2)


Who: Tampa Bay Storm at Arizona Rattlers
When: Saturday, August 16, 1997, 8:00 p.m. EDT.
Where: America West Arena, Phoenix, Ariz.
TV Coverage: ESPN.
Radio Coverage: KTAR-AM 620 (Phoenix), WDAE-AM 1250 (Tampa-St. Petersburg).

One to Watch...
Rich Fall
Kicker Rich Fall, a University of Arizona graduate, returns to his old stomping grounds on a tear, having hit 17 straight extra points. Photo by Chris Arnold.

Kicking Off...

For the second straight year, the date August 16 brings forth an AFL semifinal clash between the Rattlers and the Storm. However, the venue has changed, from the cavernous ThunderDome to the cozy and noisy America West Arena in downtown Phoenix. The Rattlers come in having won five straight and 13 out of their last 14 since an opening night loss to the Storm. And did you know that...since a 48-44 loss to Anaheim on May 11, 1996, the Rattlers have gone 23-5, but have gone 0-3 against Tampa Bay in that span.

The Coaches...

Tampa Bay - Tim Marcum, 37-10 in three seasons with Storm, 92-22 in nine AFL seasons.

Arizona - Danny White, 55-28 record in three seasons with the SaberCats, 55-28 record in six AFL seasons.

In 1997...

Tampa Bay (9-6) - Defeated Arizona 42-30, defeated Florida 38-19, lost to Orlando 43-17, defeated Nashville 42-26, lost to Milwaukee 52-41, 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, lost to Iowa 61-38, defeated Florida 48-22, defeated San Jose 58-34, defeated Nashville 52-49.

Arizona (13-2) - Lost to Tampa Bay 42-30, defeated Orlando 32-31, defeated Anaheim 58-26, defeated San Jose 59-50, defeated Florida 48-25, defeated San Jose 59-22, defeated Portland 68-62, defeated Florida 58-41, defeated Milwaukee 47-40, lost to Nashville 56-49, defeated Milwaukee 56-44, defeated Anaheim 53-37, defeated Albany 77-60, defeated New York 38-36, defeated Milwaukee 46-29.

Rattlers to Watch...

Sherdrick Bonner
QB Sherdrick Bonner goes back to pass during the Storm-Rattlers semifinal game last season. Photo by Chris Arnold.
QB Sherdrick Bonner - He wasn't the highest rated passer, he didn't throw for the most yards or touchdowns, he didn't have the most completions and he didn't throw the fewest interceptions. However, Bonner may have had the best overall season of any AFL quarterback in 1997, and certainly the best of his career. He threw a career high 67 touchdowns offset by only six interceptions, the lowest for a full season in his four-year career. In addition, that 67-to-six TD-to-INT ratio is a league record, as is his 400-attempts-to-six-interceptions mark. He holds all Rattlers passing records, in spite of spending 1993 on the bench behind Paul Justin and missing half of the 1995 season because he was on the Miami Dolphins' roster. However, there is one blemish on his career---his record against the Storm. Since leading the Ratts to a 48-21 win over Tampa Bay in 1994, he has gone winless in three straight against Tampa Bay.

DS Cedric Walker - After splitting time with Orlando and Charlotte last year, he found a home in Arizona. All he did in his first season with Arizona was lead the league with 78 solo tackles and 108 total stops. He added four interceptions, second on the Rattlers' roster behind two-way threat Randy Gatewood, and broke up a team-high 16 passes. Against Milwaukee last week, he was second on the Rattlers with seven total tackles, including three solos.

OS Calvin Schexnayder - Not only does he have possible the best surname in the Arena Football League, but he's been a spectacular player for the last two seasons since moving from being a two-way player to offense-only before the 1996 season. Schexnadyer ended the regular season third in the AFL with 1,513 yards receving and finished fifth in receptions with 93. However, he has been largely muzzled in four games against the Storm. He only has one 100-yard game against Tampa Bay, that coming in the semifinal round of last year's playoffs when he caught seven passes for 107 yards. He has just three touchdowns in four games against the Storm, with two of those coming in the 1994 win. Over the four games in the series that he has participated in, the man they call "Shakes" has caught 15 passes for 184 yards and three touchdowns, giving him per-game averages of 3.75 catches, 46 yards and 0.75 touchdowns---not exactly the stuff he is used to. Hampered by injury, he did almost nothing against the Storm in their Week One clash, catching a single pass for 16 yards. A similar defensive effort by the Storm on Schexnayder could go a long way towards ensuring the Storm a spot in the ArenaBowl.

WR/DB Randy Gatewood - This year, he has supplanted longtime Rattler standout Hunkie Cooper as the team's No. 2 receiving threat. Gatewood caught 62 passes for 892 yards and 20 touchdowns in 1997, finishing second on the Rattlers in all three categories. A true ironman, he led the team in pickoffs with five and was third in tackles with 44. He's had similar all-around efforts against the Storm in the last two years. Most notable was in last year's semifinals, when he caught three passes for 34 yards, made five tackles, broke up two passes, picked off two others and recovered a fumble. On every snap, Gatewood is a player the Storm is going to have to account for in order to win.

Noting the Rattlers...

The Nemesis - No team has defeated the Rattlers more than the Storm. Arizona is just 1-5 against Tampa Bay, including three losses in America West Arena. No doubt that revenge will be a factor for the Rattlers, who have dominated the rest of the league in the last two seasons.

Stats Corner - Arizona is not great in any one area, but is good in many. The Rattlers are fifth in scoring (50.9 points per game), third in scoring defense (38.6 points per game), are fifth in toal offense (282.8 yards per game) and seventh in toal defense, allowing 268.5 yards per game. There is one truly remarkable number for the Rattlers, though, and it comes in sacks. The Rattler offensive line has only allowed one all season, and that was on backup QB Donnie Davis against San Jose. Bonner has yet to hit the turf with the ball in his hands in 1997.

Tampa Bay/Arizona Connections - OL/DL Flint Fleming joined the Storm in the preseason but was traded to the Rattlers after Week Seven...WR/DB Herb Duncan was an 11th round draft pick of the Bucs in 1989...Lineman Darrin Kenney was a member of the Storm's 1993 World Championship club...Defensive coordinator Doug Kay was also with the Storm during the 1993 season before heading to Albany and later Charlotte; he joined the Ratts in 1996...Storm K Rich Fall is a graduate of the University of Arizona...Tampa Bay lineman Jerold Jeffcoat lives in Chandler, Ariz., a suburb of Phoenix...OS George LaFrance lives on a Navajo reservation in eastern Arizona during the offseason.

Noting the Storm...

Nomadic Adventures - Finding the Storm at practice is usually fairly easy---any fan can walk into the Ice Palace, sign themselves in and head into the stands to watch. That is, of course, if the Storm is actually in the Ice Palace. Thanks to a two-day course in icemaking and a Friday night concert by The Who, the football wizards were forced to find alternate and outdoor sites this week. The Storm had access to an outdoor facility at Tampa Prep earlier in the season, but were forced out there because a soccer team was using the field. So the Storm practiced wherever they could. Tuesday, it was at Pepin-Rood Stadium on the University of Tampa campus. Wednesday, it was on the fields at the University of South Florida. Thursday, it was off to Jesuit High School, a stone's throw from Houlihan's Stadium. "Wherever they let us go, we'll practice," coach Tim Marcum said.

Kellogg's Progress - Three weeks ago, the Storm signed WR/LB/DB Jack Kellogg, a 6-1, 190-pound AFL rookie from Eastern Washington. He has stepped in marvelously, leading the team in tackles with seven, including six solos, last week at Nashville. However, he is having something of an identity crisis. Wearing No. 6, he has been misidentified in the official stat sheets as Walter Sutton, who remains on injured reserve with a hamstring injury.

Statistically Speaking - QB Peter Tom Willis had the best night of any AFL quarterback last weekend; his 132.4 passer rating was tops in the league...FB/LB Les Barley led the league with 44 yards on the ground last weekend...Overall, the Storm ran for 72 yards in last week's win. The next closest team was Arizona, with just 25 yards on the ground.

Injury Front - WR/LB Stevie Thomas continues to be hampered by a thumb injury suffered at San Jose. He did run drills with the team this week; although he didn't catch any passes, he ran routes to stay in playing shape...DS Tracey Perkins has been working on his hamstring, primarily doing running drills as well as taking laps around the practice fields. He should be ready for the game...WR/LB Lawrence Samuels is questionable with a hip injury suffered last week at Nashville; however, he did practice and is expected to go...WR Wayne Walker ran at full speed for the first time in two weeks and will play Saturday...Still on injured reserve are WR/DB Larry Kennedy (hamstring), lineman Michael Thornton (ankle), FB/LB Cedric McKinnon (shoulder) and WR/DB Walter Sutton (hamstring)...Thornton practiced this week, but because of the heat, was drained. He took an IV after Wednesday's workout at USF.

Series History...

Rattlers and Storm Line Up
The Rattlers and Storm line up in 1996. Photo by Chris Arnold.
The Rattlers and Storm have met six times. The Storm leads the series 5-1.

  • 07/11/92 - Tampa Bay 59, Arizona 28 - Highlights: Stevie Thomas scores four times from more than 25 yards out; Storm grabs 43-14 lead by early in third quarter and cruises. Box Score

  • 06/12/93 - Tampa Bay 63, Arizona 33 - Highlight: Storm scores four touchdowns in the last 2:17 of the game---including three in the final 22 seconds---to break open a close game late. Box Score

  • 07/30/94 - Arizona 48, Tampa Bay 21 - Highlights: The Rattlers' lone win in the series; Storm held to lowest point total in franchise history; Jay Gruden completes a franchise-record 49-yard touchdown pass to George LaFrance; Arizona reels off 34 straight points to turn a 14-14 tie into a rout. Box Score

  • 07/27/96 - Tampa Bay 69, Arizona 48 - Highlights: Storm spots Rattlers a 31-14 second quarter advantage before scoring twice in the last minute of the half; in the last 27:45 of the game, the Storm outscored the Rattlers 34-10 in turning the game into a rout. Box Score

  • 08/16/96 - Tampa Bay 55, Arizona 54 - Highlights: Storm stops Rattlers on two-point conversion with 11 seconds left to preserve Tampa Bay's trip to ArenaBowl X. Box Score

    05/03/97 - Tampa Bay 42, Arizona 30 - Highlights: Willis debuts with 21-for-32, 224-yard, four-touchdown performance; Storm converts five-of-five third downs; Storm outscores Rattlers 20-6 over a 19:37 stretch to take control. Game Coverage

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