1998 Results | Game Coverage

ThunderBrears   at   Storm
(1-1) (1-1)


Who: Houston ThunderBears at Tampa Bay Storm
When: Saturday, May 16, 1998, 7:30 p.m. EDT
Where: Ice Palace, Tampa, Fla.
TV Coverage: KHTV-Ch. 39 (Houston, tape delay at 11:00 p.m. CDT) Time Warner Communications Tampa Bay (tape delay at 9:00 p.m. EDT Sunday and Wednesday and 10:00 p.m. EDT Friday).
Radio Coverage: WDAE-AM 1250 (Tampa), KPRC-AM 950 (Houston).

One to Watch...

George LaFrance
OS George LaFrance replaced an injured Wayne Walker and gained 199 all-purpose yards in the loss to Nashville. Photo by Chris Arnold.

Kicking Off...

Two teams with different expectations but identical records will clash on the Ice Palace carpet Saturday when the Houston ThunderBears make their first visit to this building to take on the Storm. Tampa Bay comes into tonight's clash reeling off a 54-52 home opener loss to the Nashville Kats. Quarterback Peter Tom Willis set a career high with seven touchdown passes and 303 yards but was unable to lead the Storm back from a 16-point fourth quarter deficit. Tampa Bay scored twice in the last four minutes of the game to close the gap to two points, but an on-side kick by Bjorn Nittmo was recovered by the Kats with 11 seconds remaining, dashing the Storm's hopes.

Houston flies high into Tampa off their first win over the season, a 41-35 triumph over the Florida Bobcats. Quarterback Clint Dolezel paced the ThunderBears by completing 21 of 36 passes for 249 yards and four touchdowns. Three of those scores went to OS Robert Hall, who hauled in a total of 11 passes for 104 yards on the evening.

The Coaches...

Houston - Steve Thonn, 1-1 in his first season with the ThunderBears, 1-1 in his first AFL season..

Tampa Bay - Tim Marcum, 38-12 in his fourth season with the Storm, 93-24 in ten AFL seasons.

In 1998...

Houston (1-1) - Lost to Nashville, 64-40, defeated Florida 41-35.

Tampa Bay (1-1) - Defeated San Jose, 45-23, lost to Nashville 54-52.

ThunderBears to Watch...

QB Clint Dolezel - Dolezel faces the Storm for the first time, having missed last year's meeting with a fractured right foot. However, no quarterback in the last year has been more prolific than Dolezel. He is easily the ThunderBears' most valuable player; since his arrival from Milwaukee via a trade prior to 1997, they are 7-6 with Dolezel in the lineup and 3-0 without. He has gotten off to a superb start in 1998, as he ranks second in the league in passing yardage (285.5 yards per game) and total offense (284 yards per game). In 1997, he completed 259 of 388 passes for 3,377 yards and 69 touchdowns---good for averages of 6.2 touchdowns and 307 yards per game. His per-game yardage average looks even more impressive when one considers that Storm QB Peter Tom Willis set a career-high with 303 yards last week. Among the honors he holds are league Player of the Week honors---which he has won three times in 13 career starts---and league records for touchdown passes in a game (ten, last year at New York) and yardage in a game (449 at Iowa last season). Always explosive, he presents a stiff challenge for the Storm pass rush---to get in his face and disrupt his timing.

OS Robert Hall - In 1996, he was a multi-pronged threat for the ThunderBears, leading the team in passing yardage, completions and passing touchdowns and ranking second in return yardage. He also stood among team leaders in scoring, receptions, carries, receiving yardage and rushing yardage. He spent 1997 in the World League with the Amsterdam Admirals, and returned healthy for 1998. But with Dolezel rising to the fore, Hall has been forced to settle in at a single position---offensive specialist. There, he has posted the best numbers of his career. He currently stands as the Arena Football League's leading receiver with 29 receptions for 306 yards so far in the young season. Included in that total were 18 catches for 202 yards in the season opening loss at Nashville (5/1). Hall is currently the league leader in catches and is second in receiving yardage. His 18-catch night at Nashville was the second-best in league history, behind Hunkie Cooper's 19-reception game for Arizona on June 12, 1993.

Noting the ThunderBears...

Unusual Success - Whether it's preseason or regular season, this franchise has learned to treasure every win. Two years of cumulative 7-21 football will do that to a team. Thus, their 3-1 start, including an undefeated 2-0 slate in the preseason, has boosted the confidence of the team. It has not, however, boosted attendance. Last week's win over Florida in front of just 4,629 at the Compaq Center marked the seventh time in the last eight home games that Houston has failed to break the 5,000 mark in announced attendance.

Powering Over...

Tony Jones Scores
Former FB/LB Tony Jones scores on a plunge over Rodney Blackshear during the Storm's 62-27 win over the then-Texas Terror on May 11, 1996. Photo by Chris Arnold.
Care Bears with Attitude! - One has to love the Houston ThunderBears' new name. Or do they? Attendance hasn't shot up due to the new name (replacing the Texas Terror) or to a new mascot (a bear named "Thunder, replacing a Frankenstein-like creature aptly called "Big Frank"). Still, you've got to give them credit for trying. By calling themselves "Houston," they put themselves in position to market themselves as Houston's only professional football team. It'll be a shame if fans in the Space City don't take the time to watch Dolezel and Hall play pitch-and-catch. The T-Bears haven't been winners, but in the last year, they've been entertaining.

Tampa Bay/Houston Connections - Storm DS Tracey Perkins is a native of Houston, graduating from Bellaire High School, and resides in the city during the offseason...ThunderBear WR/LB Chris Ford played for the Bucs in 1990 and started one game.

Noting the Storm...

"My boys need a house!" - Throughout the preseason, the Storm have been occasionally forced outside to Blake High School to practice, as events in the Ice Palace such as concerts, hockey games and field painting have wreaked havoc with the practice schedule. But this week, the Storm got their house to themselves, as with the absence of any renowned performers from the entertainment industry, the Astroturf field, rebound nets and side padding remained in place.

Moving Down the Speed Dial - Storm offensive specialist Wayne Walker spent the first week and a quarter dashing through enemy defenses for 309 all- purpose yards and three touchdowns. But in the second quarter Saturday night, the sprint show came to a temporary halt when he was flipped over by Kats K Jorge Cimadevilla, injuring his groin as he fell to the turf. He will not play on Saturday, but when he does come back, he'll have a new number...#80.

"You don't know my name, do you?" - In a discussion of the Storm's great players, WR/DB Antoine Worthman doesn't always come to mind. However, the former Illinois State star, in his third season, turned in a good game on Saturday night, catching three passes for 69 yards and posting three tackles on defense. His defining play of the night was a 45-yard catch-and-run for a score in the fourth quarter, where he took a pass from Willis near the left sideline, cut across the width of the field perpendicular to the goal line and used a well-timed block by WR/LB Stevie Thomas to spring for the end zone and pull the Storm within 40-38. Worthman has been making his presence known dating back to last year's playoffs, when he tied with current NFL Europe DB Jack Kellogg for the team lead in postseason tackles.

"Poppie's been a bit sloppy!" - Unfortunately for the Storm, turnovers have plagued the team, in both victory and defeat. The Storm has turned the ball over four times in each of the two games, with only a Perkins interception last week to balance out the ratio. The Storm finished tenth in the league in 1997 with a minus-seven turnover ratio. "We're going to have to do better taking care of the football," Marcum said.

"Giddy-up!" - FB/LB Les Barley, in his fourth season with the Storm and his seventh in the Arena Football League, stands just 21 yards away from becoming the first Arena Football League player to break the 1,000-yard barrier. He had pulled within 20 yards after gaining 41 at San Jose in Week One but took a jog backwards after losing a yard on his only carry of the game against the Kats. He is the league's all-time leading rusher, breaking the record of former Cleveland Thunderbolt QB Major Harris during last year's 53-31 loss at Albany (6/7/97). "Gaining 1,000 in this league is like gaining 10,000 in outdoor football," Marcum said. Barley was a member of the All-AFL first team with the Connecticut Coyotes in 1995 and earned a championship ring in his first tour of duty with the Storm, in 1993. He rejoined Tampa Bay before last season after the Charlotte Rage folded following the 1996 campaign.

"The sea was angry that day, my friends..." - Not the sea as in the Atlantic Ocean, but the "C" as in Storm Coach Tim Marcum, who was only slightly displeased with the Storm's effort in Saturday's home-opening loss to the Nashville Kats. Last week, he gave the players a day off after beating San Jose. This week, he called them in to the Ice Palace for a Sunday practice. "Mistakes, turning the ball over---with that, you're not going to get it done against the tough, upper echelon teams like [Nashville]," Marcum said after the game.

"I'm back, baby, I'm back!" - This week, the Storm welcomes back a familiar face from last season---lineman Tony Woods. He was signed on June 16 of last year and finished the season with a sack and eight tackles. He also made three tackles in the Storm's playoff encounters. Woods will enter his second AFL season after a winding football career that has seen stops with the Chicago Bears, the New York/New Jersey Knights of the then- World League and the Edmonton Eskimos of the CFL. While in NY/NJ in 1991, he played under Marcum, who was assisting Knights head coach Darrel "Mouse" Davis.

"I'm out, baby, I'm out!" - Of course, to bring in one guy and remain at the roster limit of 24, you must let go of another, and that man was Michael Thornton, who was officially waived by the Storm on Monday. He was signed by the Storm on June 5 of last year and finished the year with six tackles and no sacks. He spent the last month of the season and the entire postseason on injured reserve with an ankle injury.

"But I don't wanna be a pirate!" - The Arena Football League is rife with players who have at least shared a cup of coffee over a bowl of cereal at the NFL diner. A few of them have ties to the local NFL team in the Tampa Bay area, better known as the Buccaneers. Willis was a member of the Bucs in the 1995 season. WR/LB also is a Buccaneer offseason alum; he played for the team during the 1990 preseason. Also on the Bucs in 1990---but during the regular season---was ThunderBear WR/LB Chris Ford, who even started a late-season game for that year's 6-10 club. One of Ford's teammates was Willie Wyatt, who finished the 1990 season in the day-glo orange and red.

"I'm bustin', Jerry! I'm bustin'!" - Willis turned in his best Arena Football performance and a gallant effort, to boot, in Saturday's loss. He set career highs with 303 yards and seven touchdowns, and also completed three passes that covered more than 40 yards. He did all that while standing tall in the face of a pounding Nashville pass rush. "I tell you, we've got one tough quarterback," Marcum concluded after the game. "He just got the crap knocked out of him."

"Looks really don't matter." - That was all too true for the Storm on Saturday, as they outdid Nashville on the statistics sheet but lost on the scoreboard. Tampa Bay outgained the Kats in yarage, 304 to 226, outpassed the Kats, 303 to 216, averaged more yardage per play, 6.9 to 4.7, had more yardage on kick returns, 200 to 160, and had more sacks, with one for the Storm contrasting with none for the Kats.

Master of His Domain - Thrust back into the offensive specialist role due to Wayne Walker's second quarter injury against the Kats, OS George LaFranceturned in yet another outstanding game, catching four passes for 83 yards and three scores. He also tallied 116 yards on kick returns, including an outstanding 39-yard return of a missed Jorge Cimadevilla field goal in the second quarter. LaFrance went over the 7,000-yard mark in receiving with his night; he now stands at 7,014. He also needs only ten catches for 500 in his ten-season career.

"You don't have to worry about me; I won a contest!" - Saturday night at the Ice Palace, fans will have a chance to win a brand new 1998 Volkswagen Beetle replete with the faces of the original Fab Four...John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr. The car, known as the "Fifth Beatle," will be given away by local Volkswagen dealers in conjunction with classic rock station WTBT-FM, better known as Thunder 105.5. Reportedly, these Volkswagen Beetles are so hot, that even Jerry Seinfeld himeslf is on a waiting list to order one.

"And by the way, they're real, and they're spectacular." - In the first two games, Willis and Thomas have been the Storm's most productive duo. Willis has hooked up with Thomas 12 times for 151 yards and two touchdowns. Probably the most eye-popping of their connections came against Nashville last Saturday with 24 seconds left. Facing a 4th-and-15 at their own two-yard-line, Willis heaved a pass deep down the right side for Thomas, who was in double coverage. Thomas got under the pigskin and hauled it in, stepping out of bounds for good measure to stop the clock until the next snap. It put Thomas over the century mark for the game; he finished with 107 yards.

Countdowns - FB/LB Andre Bowden, who gained one yard on the ground last week, needs 59 yards to move into fourth place in league history in rushing; he currently has 634 yards on 191 carries...FB/LB Cedric McKinnon needs 90 yards to move into third place in league annals; he was deactivated against San Jose but has 747 yards in six seasons headed into 1998...LaFrance needs 53 yards on kickoff returns to hit the 7,000-yard mark...LaFrance also needs 14 receptions for 500 and 69 yards receiving for 7,000...Lineman Sylvester Bembery, the league's all-time leading sacker, needs one to get to 40 for his career...With just eight more points, Thomas will hit the 800-point figure for his career; he ranks fourth all-time in that category...In the same department, LaFrance needs 60 points for 1,000; he ranks second behind Orlando's Ironman, Barry Wagner...WR/LB Lawrence Samuels is seven catches away from 100 for his career...Marcum is just seven wins away from becoming the first Arena Football League coach to reach the century mark in victories.

Injury Front - FB/LB Nyle Wiren remains on injured reserve with a knee injury. Also on injured reserve are DS Tracy Sanders (hip) and WR/DB Kevin Jackson (broken index finger)...Walker is doubtful with a pulled groin.

Series History...

The Storm and ThunderBears have met three times, all when the 'Bears were the Texas Terror. Tampa Bay has won all three meetings.

05/11/96 - Tampa Bay 62, Texas 27 - It was a night that included one of the Storm's best promotions ever, as a lucky fan in the crowd of 14,178 took home a 1995 Storm championship ring. It also included a masterful performance by George LaFrance, who set a Storm regular season record by scoring five touchdowns as Tampa Bay grabbed a 32-0 lead before the Terror finally got on the scoreboard with a 24-yard field goal by Richard DeFelice with two seconds remaining in the first half. Texas scored 20 of their 27 points on special teams, as DeFelice kicked two field goals and Rodney Blackshear and Greg Lewis each returned kicks for scores.

In spite of the momumental 32-point deficit, the Terror put a rally together and appeared to be clawing back into the contest early in the fourth quarter, after a two-yard touchdown run by Mike Coats drew them within 39-24. But the Storm responded by moving 43 yards in five plays, capped by an 11-yard scoring strike from Jay Gruden to LaFrance. The Storm ended the game on a 23-3 run as they moved to 2-0 with the win. Texas, on their way to a disappointing 1-13 season, dropped to 0-3. Box Score

08/02/96 - Tampa Bay 42, Texas 30 - Tampa Bay closed out the 1996 regular season by coasting to a 42-30 win at the Summit. The Storm needed the win to maintain a No. 2 seed over the Arizona Rattlers for the playoffs. With the win, they accomplished that goal, which would be significant two weeks later when the Rattlers and Storm met in the semifinals at the then-ThunderDome.

Gruden connected on 18 of 33 passes for 280 yards and four touchdowns. Two of those scores went to Lonnie Turner, who ended the year by catching six passes for 109 yards. LaFrance also hauled in seven passes for 79 yards as the Storm improved to a franchise-record 12-2. Box Score

07/05/97 - Tampa Bay 40, Texas 31 - Check out our game coverage..

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