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Storm is finally back in lead, but not as a seed

Published April 2, 2003

The Storm's 68-39 dismantling of Arizona on Friday, coupled with losses by Georgia and Orlando over the weekend, left Tampa Bay in sole possession of first place in its division for the first time since the 12th week of the 2001 season.

But the accomplishment was hardly cause for celebration around the team's offices at the St. Pete Times Forum. That's because seeding for the playoffs is based on overall records, not division standings.

"I think it's a better way to do it because that way you truly get the best four teams regardless of the division," Storm coach Tim Marcum said.

If the season ended today, the Storm (7-2) would be seeded third behind Los Angeles (7-2) and defending ArenaBowl champion San Jose (7-2), and would receive a first-round bye.

Los Angeles holds a head-to-head tiebreaking advantage over San Jose because of its 73-72 victory over the SaberCats on Feb. 9. And it holds a common-opponents tiebreaker over Tampa Bay based on the Avengers' 4-0 record against Las Vegas, Indiana, Grand Rapids and Orlando compared to the Storm's 3-2 mark (includes two games versus Orlando) against those teams.

Tampa Bay could move as high as No. 1 or 2 by winning its remaining games, which include a May 11 home date against San Jose.

HOLDING PATTERN: Storm attorney Ron Kurpiers said he is looking into the March 23 incident in which Northwest Airlines denied boarding by the team on its connecting flight from Memphis following a victory over Indiana.

The airline said the Storm was removed from the flight "out of respect for the safety and comfort of both the members of the team and the other passengers aboard the flight, and because boarding a flight while apparently intoxicated is unlawful."

Marcum said the airline singled out black players, and he called the incident "racially motivated."

"After we get all the information, we'll make a decision from that point on what we're going to do," Kurpiers said.

The league also is gathering information on the incident, spokesman Chris McCloskey said.

"Once we feel we have sufficiently done so, we may or may not act appropriately," said McCloskey, who would not speculate on any action the league might take.

MOONLIGHTING: Wide receiver/linebacker Lawrence Samuels and wide receiver/defensive back Clif Dell will assist former Storm player Melvin Cunningham on Wharton High's staff.

Samuels, who previously served as a graduate assistant at West Alabama and coached at Pinellas Marine Institute on St. Pete Beach and Central High in Brooksville, will work with receivers.

Dell, who played at King, Jesuit and South Florida, will coach linebackers.

"It's really good to have some of those guys who have had some success in this game and can tell you some of the ins and outs not only of football but also of being a man," Cunningham said.

PRESSING: Kicker Ian Howfield, consistent in his first five games after replacing Pete Elezovic, missed 4 of 10 extra points against Arizona.

Marcum said Howfield might have been trying too hard to impress Rattlers coach Danny White, who Howfield thought should have given him a chance to kick for his team last season.

"It looked to me like he was trying to hit his driver," Marcum said, "and we need to hit a wedge."

[Last modified April 2, 2003, 02:03:29]

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