1998 Results | Game Coverage
Who: Tampa Bay Storm at Grand Rapids Rampage
Kicking Off...It might seem like a meaningless encounter, as Tampa Bay has clinched the top seed in the postseason while Grand Rapids has been out of the playoff chase for the last three weeks. However, the Storm will be playing to maintain momentum heading into the postseason, while the Rampage seeks what would be the biggest win in their franchise's short history, one week after an agonizing 45-41 loss at Milwaukee on Friday night where two potential game-winning touchdowns were called back in the final eight seconds.
The Coaches...Tampa Bay - Tim Marcum, 48-13 in four seasons with the Storm, 103-25 in ten AFL seasons.
Grand Rapids - Michael Trigg, 3-10 in one season with Rampage, 30-38 in five AFL seasons.
In 1998...Tampa Bay (10-1) - Defeated San Jose, 45-23, lost to Nashville 54-52, defeated Houston 56-25, defeated Florida 44-29, defeated New Jersey 81-42, defeated New York 65-33, defeated Orlando 42-34, defeated Albany 63-42, defeated Orlando 56-30, defeated Houston 62-46, defeated Florida 59-18, lost to Nashville 49-43, defeated Iowa 71-44.
Grand Rapids (3-10) - Lost to Orlando 42-27, defeated Iowa 45-27, lost to Portland 45-22, lost to San Jose 49-20, lost to Milwaukee 54-41, lost to Iowa 48-47, lost to Houston 80-36, defeated New York 53-43, defeated New York 43-28, lost to Arizona 69-27, lost to Houston 63-49, lost to Florida 62-55, lost to Milwaukee 45-41.
Noting the Storm...Another Numbers Change - FB/LB/OL/DL Nyle Wiren, who wore jersey number 44 for most of the regular season, will wear No. 2 the rest of the way.
Homecoming - Saturday's game will give lineman Steve Houghton and QB Ron Adams a chance to get caught up with old acquaintances. Both have roots in Michigan; Houghton is a native of Paw Paw and attended Ferris State University, while Adams lives in Wyandotte where he is a teacher, and attended Eastern Michigan University in Ypsilanti.
Looking Ahead - In the first round playoff game, the top-seeded Storm could face one of four teams---New Jersey (7-6), Milwaukee (6-7), San Jose (6-7) or Iowa (5-8). The Red Dogs have clinched a postseason spot by virtue of their thrilling 64-57 overtime win over Arizona on Sunday afternoon, and will take to the turf at home against Portland on Friday night playing merely for seeding. San Jose visits Central Division champion Houston on Friday night; if the SaberCats win, they are in the postseason. Should the SaberCats lose, they would be eliminated, switching the focus to what would be, in essence, a playoff game on Saturday night in Des Moines between Milwaukee and Iowa, with the winner advancing to face the Storm.
There are eight scenarios involving the four teams in question. (God forbid there should be a tie.)
# 1 - New Jersey wins, San Jose loses, Iowa wins - Storm plays Iowa.
A breakdown of the possible opponents as they relate to the Storm and the postseason:
New Jersey Red Dogs (7-6) - Lost to Orlando 45-37 in their only playoff appearance, coming in 1997...Since blazing to an 8-1 start last year, have gone a pedestrian 8-11...Defeated the Storm at the Ice Palace 44-28 in Week Seven of 1997; however, in their 1998 meeting, Tampa Bay put up a franchise- record 81 points and clobbered the Dogs 81-42 at the Continental Airlines Arena...Currently next-to-last in the league in turnover margin (minus-10)...Are 3-3 against teams that have clinched playoff spots...Have won four out of six on the road, but just three out of seven at home.
Milwaukee Mustangs (6-7) - In their last game against the Storm, the Mustangs won, 52-41, on May 31, 1997 at the Ice Palace...The result was the beginning a franchise-worst three-game losing streak for Tampa Bay...Milwaukee is 2-5 at home in the Bradley Center and 4-2 away...Team has never won a playoff game...'Stangs are last in the league in total defense and pass defense, allowing 310.1 and 288.6 yards per game, respectively...Need a loss by San Jose to have a chance to qualify; the SaberCats took the Mustangs to the glue factory in Week Nine, slaughtering them 76-40.
San Jose SaberCats (6-7) - Have never beaten the Storm, falling in 1996 at the ThunderDome, and in the last two seasons at the San Jose Arena...Since winning four in a row, the 'Cats have staggered, losing three straight heading into their season-ending trip to Houston...Control their own destiny; if they win, they are in, and with a loss by New Jersey, could gain the No. 7 seed...Qualified for the postseason in 1995 and 1997, losing in the first round in both tries...Owe the Storm future considerations two times over, for QB Bryan Martin and lineman Earl Scott, both of whom were traded to the West Coast in June.
Iowa Barnstormers (5-8) - Are 5-3 with QB Aaron Garcia in the starting lineup and 0-5 without...Hold a 2-3 mark against teams with winning records...Have won two games in overtime with Garcia at QB, against Grand Rapids in Week Six (48-47) and at Nashville in Week Eight (46-43)...Should they play the Storm, it would mark a postseason rematch of 1996, when the Storm visited Des Moines for ArenaBowl X, winning 42-38...Only Grand Rapids is worse in point differential; the Barnstormers have allowed 667 points and scored 547 for a minus-120 mark.
Les is Best---Barley for Ironman! - It's time to kick this campaign into high gear. Time to start handing out posters, flyers, and shaking hands, and trumping up Tampa Bay FB/LB extraordinaire Les Barley for the league's Tinactin Ironman of the Year award.
Yes, the campaign faces considerable odds. After all, the rival party's candidate, WR/DB Barry Wagner of Orlando, is a seemingly unbeatable incumbent, having won election six consecutive times. Wagner has never failed to win the award---an award which may someday be named after him. And while Wagner has made a good statement for himself in 1998, it's time for a change. Time for term limits on the Ironman.
To wit: Barley is currently the league's leading sacker. He notched his eighth sack of the season on Saturday night against Iowa. Barley's eight sacks are also a franchise record, breaking the mark of seven set by teammate Andre Bowden in 1993. Barley also leads the league in rushing touchdowns by a FB/LB, having scored his 13th of the season against the Barnstormers. In addition, Barley has rambled for 189 yards this season, good for third in the league. Barley has surged in recent weeks in the rushing department, gaining 111 of his 189 yards in the last six weeks. Barley is also the league's all- time leading rusher, and with 1,128 yards, is the only man in league history to gain more than 1,000 rushing yards. This year, he has been named Tinactin Ironman of the Game three times---against New York (6/6), Orlando (6/12) and Houston (7/2)---and was the league's Ironman of the Week after his effort in Houston, where he recorded two sacks and ran for 22 yards and three scores. To top it all off, Barley is tied for the league's lead in fumbles forced with three.
Cast your votes accordingly, but remember that "Les is Best" on Election Day!
If Television is Slop, Then "Pig" Fits Right In - Newly acquired lineman Robert "Pig" Goff is becoming re-acquainted with Tampa Bay football fans after over eight years away since being traded from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to the New Orleans Saints in 1990. Fans got a better chance to know the man who actually prefers "Pig" to his given name when he made an appearance on Bay News 9's Dodge Sports Connection at 11 p.m. last Monday night.
For the Record(s) - QB Peter Tom Willis needs four touchdown passes to tie Jay Gruden's franchise record of 70, set in 1996...WR/LB Stevie Thomas needs six touchdowns to get to 150 for his career...K Bjorn Nittmo is two field goals away from tying the single season franchise record of 14 set by Jorge Cimadevilla in 1995...FB/LB Les Barley is two scores away from tying the single season team record of 15 rushing touchdowns set by Andre Bowden in 1993...With just 213 yards of offense, the Storm will break their season record of 3,853, set two years ago; the Storm is averaging 280.0 yards per game this season.
Stating a Case for the Defense - The Storm needs to hold Grand Rapids to 30 points or less in order to become the first team to yield fewer than 500 points for a season since the league went to a 14-game schedule in 1996. Tampa Bay is currently pacing the league, allowing just 36.1 points per game; Orlando, the next-best in that department, has allowed over a touchdown more per game---7.8 points more, to be exact. Grand Rapids, meanwhile, has the league's worst scoring offense, mustering just 38.9 points per game. The Rampage have been held below 30 points on four occasions. However, their offense has been pulling itself up in recent weeks, posting 145 points in the last three games---an average of 48.3 points per contest.
Setting the Pace - The Storm ranks first in the league in the following categories:
Barley leads the league in sacks, fumbles forced and rushing touchdowns. DS Johnnie Harris is tops in passes defensed with 30, and second in interceptions with nine. K Bjorn Nittmo leads the AFL in extra points with 80.
Record Breakers - OS George LaFrance has pieced together a career season in 1998. He has set franchise records for missed field goal return yardage (412), receiving touchdowns (33), overall touchdowns (34) and points (204)...By nailing nine of ten extra points, Nittmo took his place in the Storm's record book. His 80 extra points and 116 total points are both franchise records for kickers.
Series History...Grand Rapids and the Storm have never met. If they had, it would have been quite a feat, seeing as how Grand Rapids didn't have a team until this year.
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