1998 Results | Game Coverage
LaFrance Silences Bobcats, Leads Storm to 54-44 Win
By Andrew Mason
TAMPA, Fla. - Just when you think the man can't do anymore; just when you think the man's getting too old, he turns around, puts his shoes to the AstroTurf one more time and amazes you.
"The man" is Storm offensive specialist George LaFrance. And in this, the dawning of his tenth season, he showed the 6,351 on hand at the Ice Palace that the best days of his illustrious Arena Football career may not yet be in his rear view mirror.
"He's like the Energizer bunny. He just keeps on going," Storm coach Tim Marcum said.
LaFrance caught touchdown passes from all three Storm quarterbacks---starter Peter Tom Willis and rookie backups Bryan Martin and Matt Pike. All three threw for over 100 yards and accounted for touchdowns.
In particular, Willis had an impressive start, completing his first five pass attempts and leading the Storm to touchdowns on all three of the possessions he directed. He finished the game with six completions in eight attempts for 111 yards and three touchdowns----two to LaFrance and one, an 18-yarder, to Lawrence Samuels.
"From the first day of practice, he looked good," LaFrance said. "He looked good last year, he just had to get used to looking at the different defenses. Once he got a chance to see the difference as far as the size of the field, how the DBs make their cuts and how they take the angles. I think he's going to become one of the great quarterbacks in the history of Arena Football."
Willis was relieved by former Weber State signal-caller Bryan Martin, and he performed ably, completing 10 of 15 passes for 106 yards and a touchdown. He threw an interception when he overshot Walter Sutton and found the hands of Florida defensive back Jerrick Bledsoe. However, he rebounded, leading the Storm on a touchdown drive at the beginning of the third quarter before being relieved by Matt Pike.
Pike, who spent the latter part of his college career handing off to Buccaneers fullback Mike Alstott, responded to the playing time with a solid performance, leading the team with 119 yards through the air and, like Willis, three touchdowns. He showed good quickness on his throws and, like Martin, got more comfortable as the game went on.
"There were a couple of times, especially early, where Martin missed his reads," Marcum said. "But the last series he had, they were sinking off and keying to the alternate receiver, and he was able to see the field, and that's encouraging. It takes a little while for quarterbacks coming from the big game before they can see all of that and see it happening so fast."
Along with the quarterbacks, FB/LB Nyle Wiren and OL/DL Keo Coleman saw substantial playing time. Their learning will continue over the course of practices leading up to the second and final preseason game.
That game will be a trip to the Orlando Arena to take on the archrival Predators. Kickoff is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. as the Storm faces their old hero, former quarterback and current Pred coach Jay Gruden, for the first time. Tickets are available at all Florida TicketMaster outlets and at the O- rena box office. If those methods don't suit your fancy, call the Preds' office at (407) 87-ARENA.
Quotebook...Opening Thoughts from Coach Marcum: "Well, you know, we started off really sharp, boom, ba-boom, everything was clicking good, and they started dragging a little there. We had some injuries at certain positions, guys had to play a long time, and that's what kind of got sloppy. But it's a win, we had a nice victory, P.T. looked good, and the other quarterbacks looked pretty decent here and there, and did some good things. George LaFrance had another great game. We rushed the passer too. and I think the tape will show that some of the new guys played pretty well."
Willis on the Game: "Overall, we're happy with the way things went. As far as me, I would have liked to have played a little more, but we were doing pretty well, so other guys got to play."
LaFrance on the Impending Arrival of Walker: " When we get him back, we're going to be rolling. We're going to have a pretty good team."
LaFrance on Playing Well at Age 32: "I'm fortunate that, in my tenth year, I get to be around Coach Marcum, and I know his offensive scheme. So it's a lot easier for me to get the job done."
Thunderclaps...Fast Start, Shaky Finish - Tampa Bay blazed to a 28-0 lead in the second quarter, thanks to a strong, stifling defensive effort and the efficient passing of Willis to primary receivers Samuels and LaFrance. But the Bobcats came back, outscoring the Storm 44-19 to pull within 47-44 with 3:30 left. "We played dumb the last half. We weren't smart. We were giving the penalties up. We've got to get a lot smarter, and I think we will."
Personal Notes - This was my first game as an official member of the Storm staff. Yep, that's me, assistant director of media relations. But in this forum here at the Shelter, I'll not pull any punches when it comes to analyzing games. This site will continue to provide you hard-hitting and informative news. But I've got to say, it was different. I was issued a team polo shirt, as were all Storm employees (coaches wear blue, staff wears white). My day at the Ice Palace began not at six with my entrance into the press lounge for a drink and dinner, but at around 11 a.m. after spending Thursday night working on the media guide. Game day at the Palace involves copying all the game notes for media, setting up the locker rooms for referees, game officials and other personnel, hauling the office computer upstairs to the press box for game night work, and helping set up food and drinks for the media. It's been interesting, and it's completely changed my perspective on the setup...I thought it all "just happened" prior to today. Now I see how things come together. But the best part came at around 7:40 p.m. Then, I stopped being a staff member and started being a Storm Shelter writer, and covered the game as I always have. All in all, not a bad gig!
Roster Doings - Thursday, the Storm officially added OL/DL Keo Coleman and quarterback Matt Pike to the roster...DS Tracey Perkins, Walker and FB/LB Tony Jones are on the roster but will report to camp in the coming days.
Day Off - The Storm players take tomorrow off to rest up. There are nicks and bruises, as always, but the injury of most concern to the coaching staff is that of Arena League rookie Alvoid Mays---he banged up a knee and didn't play from the second quarter on.
Awards - The Wilson MVP was LaFrance and the Riddell Ironman was Les Barley..
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