1997 Results | Game Coverage
Storm Spooks Terror, 40-31By Andrew Mason
It took one player coming back and one player going home for the Storm to win their first road game in six weeks.
Two players. One came back, one went home. Both Storm veterans with multiple ArenaBowl championship rings on their fingers. Befitting champions, they paced the way as the Storm (5-5) moved back to .500 by defeating the Texas Terror 40-31 in front of an announced crowd of 4,026 at a dreary, empty Summit in Houston on Saturday night.
Bowden did not record a tackle but turned in a remarkable game for someone who had only had two full practices' worth of work. Playing the mack linebacker position, he blitzed consistently and was in the face of Texas' quarterback stand-in, Gary Porter. Pressured by Bowden, Sylvester Bembery and others, Porter spent most of the night scrambling. He did manage to complete 26 of 42 passes for 278 yards, but tossed four interceptions.
One of Porter's misfires---a deep out route late in the second quarter---went to DS Tracy Sanders. Another in the third quarter went to Stevie Thomas, who ran the pick back 42 yards to set up a 25-yard field goal by kicker Rich Fall that pushed the Storm's lead to 24-19. The other two went to Perkins, who pushed his season total to seven, the most ever recorded by a Storm player in a single season.
Perkins also broke up four passes, including two on consecutive plays in the fourth quarter to thwart another Texas opportunity. But his big plays were the picks. The first came in the second quarter, with Tampa Bay leading 14-13. On 2nd-and-10 from the Texas five-yard-line, Porter looked outside for Edwin Howard, who was running a route near the right sideline. The pass never got to Howard, though, as Perkins stepped in front and hopped 11 yards untouchded for the score and a 21-13 lead.
For Perkins, the score was his first of the season, and it could not have come at a better place. He grew up in Houston and played high school ball at Belleaire High School before heading off to nearby Lamar University for college. Although he has been with the Storm for seven seasons, he continues to go home to Houston every fall for graduate school.
For the man that Storm fans, players and personnel affectionately refer to as just "Perk," ties run deep in Houston, evidenced by the friends and family who made an audible roar when No. 24 crossed the goal line in the second quarter.
His second pick came with 3:02 to go and the Storm holding a 37-25 lead. On second down from midfield, Porter fired what looked like a desperation pass into the end zone. Perkins was there and caught it for the pick that led to a field goal.
As much as it seemed like old home week for the Storm, the other major story was the development of the team's new additions. Lineman Earl Scott, signed this week after spending his spring as the center for the Amsterdam Admirals, was reasonably solid in his AFL debut. However, one 1997 trait of the Storm rubbed off on him---botched center-QB snaps. With first-and-goal in the third quarter, Scott was party to a fumbled snap that QB Peter Tom Willis recovered for a two-yard loss. Also notable among the newbies was lineman Tony Woods, who turned in a spectacular sack of Porter in the first quarter, chasing the signal-caller down for a ten-yard loss.
But roster instability is still an issue for the Storm. In the last 30 days, 12 players have come or gone from the Storm as coach Tim Marcum attempts to find the right mix of players. This might worry some fans, but bear in mind that midseason acquisitions have borne some substantial fruits for the Storm over the years. These players include Thomas and Keith Browner in 1991, Les Barley in 1993, Stacey Simmons in 1995, Johnnie Harris and Terry Beauford in 1996 and Grantis Bell in 1995 and again this year. Promisingly, Bell is showing signs of exceeding his '95 performance. He caught a 45-yard touchdown pass on the first play of Saturday's game.
Bell's hands were quite possibly the most surehanded ones on offense against the Terror. Drops and footballs going through fingertips plagued the receiving corps as George LaFrance saw two passes whiz off his fingertips and WR/DB Larry Kennedy dropped a sure touchdown in the final seconds of the first half.
But as they say, a win is a win. Tampa Bay now faces the most crucial stretch of 1997 with a three-game homestand that will make or break the season. Will the Storm defend its home turf as successfully as the Russians did against Napoleon? The games against Anaheim, Iowa and Florida will provide the answer to that question. First, the Piranhas come in from Southern California to try and take a bite out of the Storm next Saturday night. They will be followed by the Barnstormers on the 19th and the Bobcats on the 26th. The Storm will be going for three straight Saturday Night Massacres and a good crowd would go a long way toward that goal. Kickoff for the games will be at 7:40 p.m. each time. For tickets, call the Storm office at (813) 276-7300 or TicketMaster at (813) 287-8844. Or just drop by any TicketMaster outlet in Florida or the Ice Palace box office.
Thunderclaps...Counting Crows - Texas' home attendance has been terror-ble this season. Last year, they started off promisingly enough, attracting over 10,000 for each of their first two home games. But this year has been far different as the lifeless Summit truly is a "Summit-ery," as the Texas media guide calls their home building. For this game, the Terror announced a crowd of 4,026, though it's hard to believe that more than 1,000 people were in the building based on the way the attendance looked on television.
LaFrance's Good and Bad Night - We mentioned LaFrance's two drops earlier, but to his credit, he dove for both passes. I guess we think so highly of LaFrance that we expect magic from him on every play. But he did manage to catch seven passes for 71 yards and a touchdown as he turned in another solid game.
Awards - The Storm Shelter Staff and the media at the game in Houston agreed on Perkins as the game's MVP. He becomes the first defense-only player to gain Wilson MVP honors in a Storm game since DS Johnnie Harris won the award after scoring two touchdowns in Tampa Bay's playoff win over Anaheim on August 9, 1996. The media at the game awarded the Riddell Ironman honor to Cotton, who had three tackles on defense and eight catches for 81 yards on offense. But that's the view of the Texas media. Our Ironman of the Game was Bowden, who did not register a tackle but was used as a blitzing linebacker and got consistent pressure on Porter throughout the game, especially in the second half.
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