1997 Results | Game Coverage
Who: Tampa Bay Storm at Nashville Kats
Kicking Off...The first round of the 1997 Arena Football League playoffs concludes with a Music City showdown between the Storm and the Kats. Nashville enters the game on a tear, having gone 7-1 since starting their first season with a 3-3 mark. Tampa Bay also comes in with momentum, having won four of their last five including an impressive 58-34 mauling of San Jose last weekend. The last two weeks have been costly for the Storm, though, as in that time, Tracey Perkins, Stevie Thomas, Willie Wyatt, Tracy Sanders and Wayne Walker have all suffered injuries.
The Coaches...Tampa Bay - Tim Marcum, 36-10 in three seasons with the Storm, 91-22 in nine AFL seasons.
Nashville - Eddie Khayat, 10-4 record in first season with the Kats, 14-10 record in two AFL seasons.
In 1997...Tampa Bay (8-6) - 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.
Nashville (10-4) - Defeated San Jose 47-21, defeated New York 42-39, lost to Texas 48-44, lost to Tampa Bay 42-26, defeated Orlando 46-36, lost to New Jersey 59-55, defeated Anaheim 68-62, defeated Albany 66-51, defeated New York 59-58, defeated Arizona 56-49, defeated Albany 57-47, lost to Milwaukee 48-41, defeated Orlando 74-55, defeated New Jersey 59-45.
Kats to Watch...WR/DB Darryl Hammond - In spite of being one of the best two-way players in league history, he has bounced around the league like a journeyman, going from Albany to St. Louis to the Kats after the Stampede folded following the 1996 season. However, he has posted some impressive stats along the way, as he is the league's active leader in tackles with 317 and ranks ninth in receceptions with 253 and 11th in receiving yardage with 2,982. Known mostly as a defensive player during his four years in Albany, he busted out offensively during his two years in St. Louis, catching 154 passes for 1,839 yards and 28 touchdowns. Hammond's new venue hasn't affected his play; he ranks second on the Kats in receptions (50) and receiving yardage (607), had two interceptions and was second on the team with 49 tackles.
WR/LB Cory Fleming - As with Kelly, he was drafted by the Kats due to his marquee value as a former UT Volunteer. However, the former Dallas Cowboy has proved that he can be an outstanding player in this league, regardless of where he went to college. Fleming did not become the team's No. 1 receiver until OS Khevin Pratt left for the NFL after Week Six. Since, he has turned into a force. Fleming led the Kats and finished ninth in the league with 89 receptions for 1,104 yards. His 32 receiving touchdowns were bested only by Eddie Brown's 35 for Albany. Perhaps the only difficulty Fleming might have been forced to endure in Arenaball would be on defense, as he was a receiver by trade before joining the league. However, he finished sevemth on the team in tackles with 23 and was third on the Kats with three interceptions from his jill linebacker spot. "He's playing at a high level now," Storm coach Tim Marcum said.
Noting the Kats...
Tampa Bay/Nashville Connections - Kats offensive coordinator Jay Gruden set all of Tampa Bay's passing records in his six seasons with the Storm (1991-96)...Offensive coordinator Pat Sperduto won three championship rings in five years with the Storm, playing for three seasons (1991-93) and coaching as an assistant for two (1994-95)...General Manager Billy McGehee served with the Storm as Director of Marketing and Sponsorship from 1993 to 1995...Vice President of Communications Denny Petro was the Storm's public address announcer and weekly radio show host in 1995...Kicker Jorge Cimadevilla booted for two seasons with the Storm (1995-96)...OL/DL Joe March played a prominent role on the lines, helping the team to three championships in four seasons (1993-96)...OL/DL Willie Fears, who is on injured reserve, played for the Storm last season...Coach Eddie Khayat served as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' defensive line coach in 1992 and 1993...OS Lonnie Turner was the Storm's No. 3 receiver in 1996.
Noting the Storm...Statistically Speaking - Tampa Bay ended the season tops in the league in total defense, allowing just 209.7 yards per game. The Storm also finished first in passing defense, allowing 188.1 yards per contest...After being dead last in the league in turnover margin for much of the season, the Storm ended the season 11th with a minus-seven margin...The Storm scored 39.1 points per game, good for 10th in the league, while they gave up 37.2 points per game, second best in the AFL...The Storm had the fifth-fewest penalties in the league this season, being whistled 118 times for 521 yards' worth of march-offs...Tampa Bay ran for 27.2 yards per game, fifth in the league...OS George LaFrance finshed first in the league in all purpose yardage with 166.5 yards per game.
Injury Front - The scourge of the Storm, who are the most banged up team in the league. For more info, check out Joe Kauffman's article detailing the various bumps and bruises suffered by Storm players.
From the Mouth of Marcum...On the Injuries and Roster Moves..."We don't have to officially announce our deactives until one hour before kickoff. With our injured guys, it will probably be a decision made then whether they're going to play or not."
On the QB Situation... - "P.T.'s our guy. We wanted to get Ron Adams some work [against San Jose] and we didn't want to get P.T. hurt."
On Nashville's Defense... - "They run a lot of different packages that we need to be prepared for. Against Milwaukee, they ran a zone; against Orlando, they ran a man coverage scheme."
Series History...The Storm and Kats met earlier this season, with the Storm defeating Nashville 42-26. For information on the game, check out our coverage.
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