STORM HEADS BACK TO JACKSONVILLE FOR FIRST ROUND MATCHUP
Story By : Ben Shotten
TAMPA BAY – A rematch of South Division rivals Tampa Bay Storm and Jacksonville Sharks is set for Saturday, August 3 in the first round of the 2013 Arena Football League playoffs. This is the Storm’s first appearance in the AFL playoffs since the team made a run to ArenaBowl XXIII in 2010.
This Saturday will mark the third meeting between these teams this season, and the ninth in series history. Jacksonville won both matchups this season by an average of 8.5 points. The Sharks also have the overall series advantage, winning seven out of the eight games played. This is a game that showcases two teams on opposite ends of the spectrum. The Sharks are on a two game win streak and are fresh off a fourth consecutive division championship. The Storm on the other hand is riding a seven game losing streak and is looking for ways to turn it around.
Last week, the fourth seeded Storm fell to the number one seed Sharks, 44-52, in a hard-hitting game that saw some unfamiliar faces on both sides of the ball. New Storm members, defensive lineman Dre Moore, defensive back Donald Smith and wide receiver DeAngelo Woodie all saw action.
Shane Boyd started at quarterback for the Storm. He completed 27-of-42 passes for 315 yards and four touchdowns. This was Boyd’s first start of the year and only his third appearance. With his 315 passing yards, Boyd became the fourth quarterback in Storm history to throw for over 300 yards in a starting debut. Boyd hooked up with Storm standout Joe Hills 11 times for 144 yards and a touchdown. Hills would go on to break the franchise single-season record for receptions (133) and receiving yards (1,861). Look for Hills to make a few more plays this postseason as he tries to help the team bring home the win for the Storm.
For the Sharks, the game started with Bernard Morris under center, but he was relieved shortly after the beginning of the second quarter. In stepped Kyle Rowley, who led the team to victory on 13-of-16 completed passes for 123 yards and two touchdowns. His favorite target was Shamar Graves, who led all Jacksonville receivers with 13 catches for 108 yards in just his second appearance of the season.
The Storm offense may have a tough time with the Sharks defensive line. The Sharks defensive line has tallied an AFL record 47 sacks on the season, breaking the old record (42) set by the San Jose SaberCats in 2012. In order for the Storm to succeed it will need to provide better protection for the quarterback as it finished the regular season ranked thirteenth in sacks allowed with 53.
The key to success for the Storm will be to protect the quarterback, make stops and create turnovers. The team boasted the third best turnover margin in the league this season at a +14. If it can protect the ball and force mistakes, the Storm may be able to replicate the success it had earlier in the season.
As with any playoff game, expect to see an intense, fast-paced match-up. The winner will face either the #2 seed Philadelphia Soul, or the #3 seed Orlando Predators, in the American Conference Championship.
The Five-Time World Champion Tampa Bay Storm was awarded the 2012 AFL Support Staff of the Year. Single game tickets can be purchased online at Ticketmaster.com, by calling 800.745.3000 or by visiting the McDonald’s® Ticket Office at the Tampa Bay Times Forum. Season tickets can be purchased by visiting TampaBayStorm.com or by calling 813.301.6600. Additionally fans and sponsors can follow the Storm on Facebook (Tampa Bay Storm) or Twitter (@tampabaystorm) for up to date news and exclusive content.