1998 Results | Game Coverage
LaFrance's Record Night Buries 'Bears, 56-25
By Andrew Mason
Offensive specialist George LaFrance, taking the field in place of injured Wayne Walker, showed why he remains among the Arena Football League's firmament of stars by hauling in a Storm-record seven touchdown passes, pacing the Storm to a comfortable and dominating 56-25 win over the Houston ThunderBears in front of 10,009 at the Ice Palace on Saturday evening.
It was the greatest scoring night of LaFrance's ten-year career.
"I've had five touchdowns, I've had six touchdowns, but I've never had seven touchdowns before," LaFrance said.
The touchdown mark ties a league record set twice before in league history. Albany OS Eddie Brown caught seven touchdowns against the Minnesota Fighting Pike on May 18, 1996 and Arizona OS Calvin Schexnayder hauled in seven scores against the Firebirds last July 26 in Phoenix.
"He had an unbelievable night," Storm coach Tim Marcum said. "He made a couple of catches that were just fantastic, up against the board, twisting around and turning around. That's what he does."
He actually had one touchdown that should have counted called back. Midway through the second quarter, he caught a Peter Tom Willis pass in the back of the end zone and got one foot down in the field of play before his momentum took him out of bounds. However, the pass was ruled incomplete. It didn't, matter, though, for LaFrance, on the night where everything went right. Two plays later, he took a ten-yard out pass from Willis and did a shake-and-bake move at the five-yard-line, lunging over the goal line for the score and a 21-3 lead which put the Storm firmly in control of the night's proceedings.
"He played great tonight," Willis said. "George always works so hard, and good things come to those who work."
LaFrance ended the game with 106 yards on nine catches, 75 yards on three missed field goal returns and 64 yards on three kickoff returns. Add those up, and he finished with a sum of 235 all-purpose yards, giving him 434 in the last two games.
"He's like a fine wine---he keeps getting better with age," Marcum said of the 32-year-old star.
Willis completed 16 of 21 passes for 197 yards and six scores. He did not finish the game, though, as he aggravated a right (throwing) thumb injury in the third quarter. He returned to the game after missing three plays, but with the Storm leading 42-19 in the fourth quarter, Marcum sat Willis down for the rest of the game and gave rookie backup Bryan Martin the first action of his young career.
Martin threw the seventh touchdown pass to LaFrance, and completed four of six passes for 42 yards and a score. He fumbled a snap from Willie Wyatt, but recovered the ball and lunged forward for two yards and a first down.
As for Willis, his thumb injury wasn't enough to keep the smile off his face in the locker room following the game.
"It was hurt, but it's okay," he said. "I was worried it was broken for the first bit, but I started loosening up and it was ready for play. I'll be all right."
Interestingly, LaFrance was not the leading receiver in the game in terms of yardage and receptions. Houston's Robert Hall had his third consecutive double-digit catch game, bringing in 12 balls for 118 yards and two meaningless fourth quarter scores. After three games, he has 41 receptions, and is on pace for 191...a staggering number considering that Eddie Brown's single-season league record is 135.
Tampa Bay will attempt to continue its winning ways next Saturday in a Southern Division game at the Florida Bobcats in West Palm Beach. The Storm has never lost to the Bobcats in their six-season stint in South Florida, dating back to when they were known as the Miami Hooters. Kickoff for the game at the West Palm Beach Auditorium, which will become a Jehovah's Witnesses kingdom hall in a month, comes at 7:40 p.m. The game will not be televised, so Storm fans will have to make the trip to the Gold Coast if they want to see this one.
Quotebook...T-Bears Coach Steve Thonn on the Loss - "We are just a bad team right now. We are having problems at the line; we are not connecting on the long balls and on the defense we messed up coverage. We just give games away and that is what we just did. Tampa [Bay] is a good team. We didn't do our part to make it a game."
Dolezel on the Storm Defense - "That was the key to the game. Their defense put pressure on me all night. Their secondary did a good job man-to-man; we didn't get open deep. The pressure of the line kept us from going deep. That was the whole key of the game---their defensive line."
Dolezel on the Storm Pass Rush - "When you get pressure up front, that is the whole key of the game. You can't throw a three-step drop. Coacm Marcum did a good job."
Marcum on Martin - "It just takes a little time. There's a couple of things he wasn't seeing in the gaps---that's why it just takes a little time to get to see things in this league."
Thunderclaps...Shutting Them Down - The normally explosive Houston offense made only cameo appearances in the first segment of the game. The T-Bears never crossed the 25-yard-line in the first quarter; in fact, all but one play of the opening period took place on the Houston side of midfield. Although they scored on a 41-yard field goal by Richard DeFelice 2:23 into the game, Houston didn't get a first down until 3:38 into the second quarter.
Welcome Back, and Welcome to the Game - Tampa Bay saw two new faces tonight---OL/DL Tony Woods and FB/LB/OL/DL Nyle Wiren. While Woods is in his second year, having played for the Storm in the last half of 1997, Wiren is a rookie, and was just activated off the injured reserve list on Friday. Wiren recorded no stats but started with Sylvester Bembery and Willie Wyatt. Woods, however, was Ironman of the Game, catching a third-quarter pass for seven yards and making a tackle on defense.
Remembering the Pike - On the radio broadcast tonight, announcers Jack Harris and Jason Dixon referred to the Minnesota Fighting Pike when discussing great scoring nights in Arena Football history. Harris said of the Pike, "With a name like that, they were probably laughed out of the league." Not necessarily true, but still, humorous, given the reaction to the nickname at the time of its unveiling.
Neat-O Nittmo - New kicker Bjorn Nittmo got off to a bad start tonight, missing a 19-yard field goal attempt early in the game and drawing the boos of the crowd. However, he recovered to hit all eight of his extra points and hit the net or kicked the ball out of play seven out of nine times on kickoffs. "Bjorn Nittmo is a guy that can kick the football, there's no question about it," Marcum said. "He's like an old shoe; he just needs a little polish."
Bazile Placed on Injured List - Friday, the Storm placed OL/DL Wilky Bazile on injured reserve. He was replaced on the active roster by Wiren. The Storm's four deactives for the game with Houston were Walker, lineman Keo Coleman, WR/DB Alvoid Mays and FB/LB Cedric McKinnon.
Awards - The Wilson MVP was LaFrance and the Tinactin Ironman was Woods.
Copyright © 1996 - 1999 by Gale Force Design. All rights reserved.