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Storm keeps postseason hope alive

By DARRYL MELLEMA

© St. Petersburg Times, published July 14, 2002


AUBURN HILLS, Mich. -- Don't count the Storm out of the playoffs yet.

AUBURN HILLS, Mich. -- Don't count the Storm out of the playoffs yet.

Tampa Bay scored the winning touchdown with 13 seconds left Saturday to defeat the Detroit Fury 49-47.

The Storm (5-7) needs to defeat Georgia on Saturday and hope other results go its way to make the playoffs. But a loss would have eliminated the Storm from the postseason and ended its streak at 12 years in which the team qualified for the playoffs.

"The feeling is good because we're still in it," Tampa Bay receiver David Saunders said. "Our hopes are still high. But we didn't play the way we needed to play."

Down 47-43, Tampa Bay started its final drive from its 25-yard line with one minute to play. The drive nearly stalled at the Detroit 24, but quarterback Shane Stafford threw to Saunders on fourth and 10, giving the Storm first and goal from the Fury 4.

Three plays later, Stafford passed to Saunders for the touchdown.

Detroit's Brad Selent missed a 63-yard field goal with no time left.

Tampa Bay trailed for much of the first half, then survived a second in which both teams traded scores on nearly every possession.

Detroit (1-12) scored the only points in the first quarter when Scott Semptimphelter found Shawndell Tucker for a 8-yard reception 2:03 into the game.

Tampa Bay struggled offensively early. On its first possession, the Storm drove to the Fury 3-yard line before failing on fourth down.

The Storm's next possession lasted one play when Kenny Wheaton intercepted Stafford.

But the Fury's lead stayed at 7-0 when Selent missed field goals from 30 and 23 yards.

With neither offense generating much, Detroit's defense made the next key play. Kal Truluck hit Stafford behind the line of scrimmage, forced a fumble, recovered and ran into the end zone. Selent's conversion put Detroit ahead 14-0.

The Detroit defense's second takeaway resulted in a 21-0 lead. Tampa Bay finally got on the board with 1:56 left in the first half when Basil Proctor ran off left guard from 6 yards.

The Storm recovered an onside kick, and Stafford threw a touchdown to Sir Mawn Wilson to make it 21-13 at halftime.

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