1998 Results | Game Coverage
Who: Tampa Bay Storm at Florida Bobcats
Kicking Off...After a week away, the Storm jumps back into divisional play to take on the Bobcats. The game will mark the Storm's final trip to West Palm Beach, as the Bobcats will be moving to a new arena in Broward County in 1999. Florida has played eleven home games at the West Palm Beach Auditorium, accumulating a 3-8 record there. The arena will become religious property after the 'Cats' game against Houston on June 6.
Tampa Bay enters the contest off of a rousing 56-25 win over the Houston ThunderBears on Saturday night. The Storm grabbed a 21-3 second quarter lead and cruised from there to the win, never allowing Houston to draw closer than 12 points from that point on. The Storm's 31-point margin of victory was the largest since the team defeated the Memphis Pharaohs 43-12 on June 22, 1996. It was also the Storm's largest margin of victory in the Ice Palace and the largest at home since the Storm defeated those same ThunderBears (under the name Texas Terror) 62-27 on May 11, 1996.
Florida enters off of a heartbreaking 42-38 loss to the New York CityHawks. Leading 38-35 off of a 45-yard field goal by Derek Schorejs, the Bobcats lost the advantage with three seconds remaining on a 26-yard scoring pass from Mike Perez to James Bowden. The Bobcats outgained the CityHawks by a 50-yard margin (287 to 237) and saw a 20-of-34, 259-yard passing effort by QB Fred McNair go for naught. The loss continued a string of agonizingly close losses for Florida; they have lost their three games by an average of 5.7 points and have come within one score of winning each contest.
The Coaches...Florida - Rick Buffington, 0-3 in his first season with the Bobcats, 25-47 in seven AFL seasons.
Tampa Bay - Tim Marcum, 39-12 in his fourth season with the Storm, 94-24 in ten AFL seasons.
In 1998...Florida (0-3) - Lost to Milwaukee 54-47, lost to Houston 41-35, lost to New York 42-38.
Tampa Bay (2-1) - Defeated San Jose, 45-23, lost to Nashville 54-52, defeated Houston 56-25.
Bobcats to Watch...QB Fred McNair - After turning in a stellar 1996 season in his first year as an Arena Football League starter, he injured a knee and missed the entire 1997 campaign. With 1998, the brother of Tennessee Oilders starter Steve McNair is back and has averaged 266.3 yards per game through the air in the first three weeks of the season. He has compleded 61 of 104 passes for 799 yards and 14 touchdowns with just four interceptions, providing the horsepower to keep the league's top-ranked offense running smoothly. Although he lost both starts against the Storm in 1996, he turned in solid numbers, completing 38 of 64 passes for 472 yards and seven touchdowns. He ran for another score in the game at West Palm Beach.
OS Cleveland Pratt - Traditionally a player who gives the Storm fits, he has returned kickoffs for scores in two of the last three games he's played against the Storm---he missed last year's July 26 meeting due to injury. He also ran back a missed field goal 56 yards for a score when they hooked up in the preseason last month at the Ice Palace. He has tallied 564 all-purpose yards in three regular season games against Tampa Bay---an average of 188 yards per contest. Thus far in 1998, he has accounted for 446 all- purpose yards, an average of 148.7 per game, good for eighth in the league. He also ranks eighth in the league in receiving yardage with 272 on 16 catches and five touchdowns.
Noting the Storm...LaFrance Named League Player of the Week - The Arena Football League named OS George LaFrance the Player of the Week for Week Three. The choice seems obvious; he tied a league record by catching seven touchdown passes in Saturday's win over the Houston ThunderBears. The seven scores also set a Storm record; the old mark was set by LaFrance himself; he caught five touchdowns against the same team when they were known as the Texas Terror in a 62-27 win to open the 1996 home schedule on May 11 of that year. LaFrance is tied for the league lead in scoring with ten touchdowns and 60 points. In addition, on his next touchdown he will become just the second Arena Football player to score 1,000 points for his career; Orlando's Ironman, WR/DB Barry Wagner, is the first. LaFrance enters this week's game with the Bobcats with a total of 994 points. "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's like a fine wine; he gets better with age."
Bjorn "Net"tmo - 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."
Viva La Difference - Although the Storm does not have the league's best record, they do lead all clubs in point differential. The Storm has outscored its opponents by 17.0 points per game, and by a total of 153 to 102.
Running for a Grand - FB/LB Les Barley, in his fourth season with the Storm and his seventh in the Arena Football League, stands just five 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. However, he rebounded for 16 yards on eight carries against the ThunderBears on May 16, including his third touchdown of the season on a three-yard run. 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.
Countdowns - FB/LB Andre Bowden, who gained 12 yards on the ground last week, needs 47 yards to move into fourth place in league history in rushing; he currently has 646 yards on 198 carries...FB/LB Cedric McKinnon needs 90 yards to move into third place in league annals; he has been deactivated for all three games in 1997 but has 747 yards in six seasons headed into 1998...LaFrance needs one reception for 500...Lineman Sylvester Bembery, the league's all-time leading sacker, needs one to get to 40 for his career...With just four more points, WR/LB Stevie Thomas will hit the 800-point figure for his career; he ranks fourth all-time in that category...In the same department, LaFrance needs 6 points for 1,000; he ranks second behind Orlando's Ironman, Barry Wagner...WR/LB Lawrence Samuels is three catches away from 100 for his career...Storm coach Tim Marcum is just six wins away from becoming the first Arena Football League coach to reach the century mark in victories.
As We Compare to Others - Tampa Bay ranks fifth in the league in scoring offense (51.0 ppg), second in scoring defense (34.0 ppg), first in scoring margin (plus 17.0 ppg), second in total offense (284.3 ypg), second in total defense (232.0 ypg), fifth in passing offense (260.3 ypg), fourth in pass defense (224.7 ypg), sixth in rushing offense (24.0 ypg), fourth in rushing defense (7.3 ypg) and 13th in turnover margin (minus- seven)...The Storm is also has the fourth fewest amount of penalty yardage (101 yards on 27 infractions) and has allowed the fewest first downs in the league (41)...QB Peter Tom Willis is fourth in the league in passer rating with a 108.5 mark...Barley is fourth in rushing with 56 yards...LaFrance is sixth in all- purpose yardage with 468, including 433 in the last two weeks...Nittmo has hit all 15 of his PAT attempts since joning the Storm.
Injury Front - OL/DL Wilky Bazile was placed on injured reserve last week. Also on injured reserve are DS Tracy Sanders (hip) and WR/DB Kevin Jackson (broken index finger)...OS Wayne Walker is doubtful with a pulled groin.
Series History...In their current incarnation as the Florida Bobcats, these clubs have met four times, twice in 1996 and twice last year, with Tampa Bay holding a 4-0 edge. But the history of the franchise goes back further than last year. From 1993 to 1995, they were the Miami Hooters, and they faced the Storm five times, with Tampa Bay winning each one. In 1992, they were the Sacramento Attack, and they did not meet the Storm. Prior to that, they were the Denver Dynamite, and they met the Storm three times in Tampa Bay's inaugural season of 1991---twice in the regular season and once in the playoffs. The teams spilt the regular meetings, and the Storm throttled the Dynamite 40-13 in a playoff game at the then-Florida Suncoast Dome.
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