TAMPA - Offensive/defensive lineman B.J. Cohen took a chance when he left Orlando to sign with Tampa Bay in the offseason, believing the Storm gave him the best chance to win an ArenaBowl.
Saturday, Cohen's current and former teams played for the right to advance to the league championship. After the Storm's 60-50 win, it appeared Cohen made the right decision.
"In all my years of football, this is probably the sweetest win I've had," Cohen said. "We go to the ArenaBowl, and they go home."
Linemen Cohen and Ernest Allen became free agents after last season, and Cohen knew Orlando could only afford to sign one. When Tampa Bay coach Tim Marcum offered Cohen a spot, Cohen jumped at the opportunity.
He responded with his best professional season, leading Tampa Bay in sacks (seven) and tackles for loss (51/2) and earning second-team All-Arena recognition.
His second-quarter fumble recovery on Saturday set up John Kaleo's 3-yard touchdown run that gave the Storm its first lead.
"I wanted to be (in Orlando) and wanted to stay there, and I love those guys," Cohen said. "For whatever reason, we couldn't work it out."
LEAGUE LEADER: Commissioner David Baker, who was in attendance, said he was pleased for Kaleo and lineman Sai Poulivaati, who played for the now-defunct Anaheim team Baker owned.
"I think it's great for these guys and for Tim Marcum," Baker said. "I've been commissioner for seven years and presented the trophy one year before that, and Tim during that time hasn't been in (the ArenaBowl), although historically he's been the finest coach in our league in terms of his record. I think it's great to see Tim and the Storm back in that game."
VIEWING PARTY: The Storm will watch the Arizona-San Jose semifinal at 5:30 p.m. today at Stump's Supper Club in Channelside and appear on NBC at halftime. The public is invited to attend.
HEADSTRONG: Orlando fullback/linebacker Duke Pettijohn was shaken up after taking a knee to the head from teammate C.J. McLain on T.T. Toliver's fourth-quarter kickoff return.
Pettijohn jumped to his feet after a couple of minutes and jogged off the field. He sacked Kaleo and forced a fumble later in the quarter.
STUCK IN NEUTRAL: The Storm's kicking woes continued, as Kenny Stucker missed three of his seven extra-point tries and his only field-goal attempt. Stucker was more consistent on kickoffs, hitting the net with all but his first kick.
DIVIDED LOYALTIES: Bruce and Jean Newman of Orlando have season tickets for the Storm and Predators and have been to every meeting between the teams.
When the teams play, Bruce wears the visiting team's hat and home team's shirt. Jean has a variety of "War on I-4" shirts from which to choose.