1998 Results | Game Coverage

Storm Breaks Records and 'Stormers' Will

By Andrew Mason
Content Editor

George LaFrance
OS George LaFrance posted a season-high 229 all-purpose yards and scored four times to pace the Storm in the rout. Photo by Chris Arnold.
TAMPA, Fla. - In a season of accomplishments and successes, this game stands out. It was the last home game of the regular season, bringing out a good crowd of 14,007, the highest for a non-Orlando home game this season. It saw the Storm wrap up home field advantage for the postseason, and do so at the expense of an Iowa Barnstormer team that had won five of their last seven.

But it also saw George LaFrance etch his name into the Storm record books one more time. His four touchdowns gave him 34 for the season, setting the Storm standard that he had previously held, as he scored a career-high 32 in 1996. 33 of LaFrance's scores came via receptions, also a franchise record.

Two of his scores came from 40 and 42 yards, and those big plays punctuated a game where the Storm averaged 10.2 yards per snap as the club cruised to a 71-44 win at the Ice Palace on Saturday night. He set the pace for a brutally efficient all-around effort that included a defensive touchdown and safety, two blocked field goals by Willie Wyatt and five touchdown passes by QB Peter Tom Willis.

For Storm coach Tim Marcum, though, the best part of the game was the team's recovery from the Week Twelve loss to Nashville---a loss that saw the Storm break down physically---with three turnovers---and mentally, with a mind- boggling 93 yards of penalties, including two unsportsmanlike conduct penalties in a row. If ever the Storm needed to show restraint, it was against Iowa, in order to avoid being caught in a tidal wave of over-reaction.

The Storm showed its collective restraint on a second quarter Iowa kickoff. Barnstormer kicker Steve Opstad kicked the ball out of bounds, and as the play ended, Iowa lineman Toney Catchings began to bait Storm FB/LB Les Barley. But as Catchings made a shove on Barley. Catchings was promptly whistled for an unnecessary roughness call and ejected.

"We didn't retaliate," Storm coach Tim Marcum said. "That, to me, says that now we're starting to play with class and play with substance [and] not getting involved with all that junk."

Barley also had a good game, aside from just saying "no" to getting goaded by Catchings. He ran for 17 yards on four carries, and scored once. He also recorded his eighth sack of the season. Barley now leads league linebackers in rushing touchdowns (13) and sacks, making him a shining candidate for league Ironman of the Year honors.

But Barley wasn't even Ironman of the Game against the Barnstormers. That honor went to FB/LB Lawrence Samuels, who caught two passes for 25 yards, including a 17-yard score with 21 seconds left in the first half. Samuels finished second on the Storm with six total tackles and punctuated his effort by picking off an Aaron Garcia pass in the second quarter and running it back 16 yards for a touchdown---his first defensive score since Week Five---and a 35-14 lead.

The sum result was the guarantee of at least one home game for the postseason. Tickets for that game---which will take place on August 7 or 8---go on sale on Tuesday at all TicketMaster outlets. But there is one more matter of business---a Week Fourteen trip to southwestern Michigan to take on the Grand Rapids Rampage.

Next Saturday, the Tampa Bay fans have two football viewing options. They can watch the Bucs play a meaningless preseason game against Pittsburgh on ABC, or they can watch the Storm play a meaningless regular season-ending game against Grand Rapids. Since the Storm's game is still a regular season game, we strongly encourage you to watch the Storm and flip to the Bucs during commericals, as The Storm Shelter crew will. Kickoff in Van Andel Arena will come at 7:30 p.m., and the game will be broadcast back to Florida on Sunshine Network.


Playoff Update - What's certain is that the Storm is the top seed in the playoffs. After that, the situation is muddled. Arizona, with a 9-3 record heading into the week, takes on 6-6 New Jersey on Sunday afternoon. The Rattlers currently stand at No. 2. The current No. 3 seed is 9-4 Albany, by virtue of their 79-70 win over Orlando on Saturday night. Orlando, which headed into the weekend 8-4, dropped to the No. 5 seed because Nashville defeated Florida 57-39 in Kansas City.

Injury Update - During the course of the game, lineman Tony Woods sustained a right ankle injury. He was seen icing the ankle down in the training room. The severity of the injury is not known at this time.

No Time to Wallow - This game marked the Arena Football debut for OL/DL Robert "Pig" Goff, a former Buccaneer and Saint nose tackle signed by the Storm on Thursday. Defensively, he made the adjustment well, notching a third-quarter sack of Garcia in the end zone that led to a safety and gave the Storm a 51-17 lead. While he had success, he struggled on offense, being whistled for three penalties.

"I got my butt kicked a couple of times," Goff said. "I wanted to put my head in there and he wanted me to sit back and punch with my hands. It's totally different. But I had a lot of help adjusting thanks to the coaches...and to Willie Wyatt. They've all done a good job.

"I think you've got to be a well-conditioned athlete to play Arena Football," he added. "It's a fun game, but at the same time, it's intense---very intense."

Goff is the Storm's second-oldest player; he turns 33 on October 2. However, his coach feels he has potential in the league.

"I really believe he's going to be a good [Arena] football player," Marcum said.

Heaven Hath No Fury Like a Storm Scorned - In franchise history, the Storm have won 21 times in 26 chances following losses, with the 20 wins coming by an average of 20.4 points. This year, following the losses to Nashville, the Storm has won by an average of 29.0 points, beating Houston 56-25 in Week Three in addition to the win over Iowa.

Stats and Stuff - The Storm's 42 first-half points were the most since scoring 43 in the first half of the Week Five win at New Jersey...WR/DB Alvoid Mays, seeing an increase in playing time due to the league suspension of Wayne Walker, caught two passes for 29 yards, including a career-long 20-yard reception...The Storm's four sacks were a season-high...The Storm's first eight possessions ended in scores, while Iowa's first nine possessions resulted in three scores, a Storm safety, three turnovers and two missed field goals...Tampa Bay held the ball for a season-low 21:26.

Finally Living Up to His Potential - Storm kicker Bjorn Nittmo finally is making consistent contact with the nets on kickoffs. Of his 11 kickoffs, ten hit either the rebound nets or the soft net between the goal post. In addition, Nittmo hit nine of ten extra points, boosting his season point total to 116. That figure is a franchise record for kickers, breaking the mark of 111 set by Jorge Cimadevilla in 1996.

Deactives - The Storm's four deactives for the game with Iowa were Tony Jones, lineman Keo Coleman, WR/DB Tracy Sanders and OL/DL/FB/LB Nyle Wiren.

Awards - The Wilson MVP was LaFrance and the Tinactin Ironman was Samuels.

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