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Saunders regains star form

FRANK PASTOR
Published May 24, 2004

TAMPA - A powder blue Yankees cap turned sideways on his head and fans clamoring for his autograph, Storm wide receiver/linebacker David Saunders was the picture of contentment as he stood in the tunnel leading to the locker room after Sunday's 59-51 victory over New Orleans.

Saunders, who missed five games with rib and shoulder injuries, was more involved offensively than at any point this season.

The team MVP in 2002 after leading the Storm in touchdowns (14) and finishing second in receptions (53) and receiving yards (610), Saunders - statistically speaking - was the team's fifth option this season with 31 catches for 334 yards and four touchdowns.

But with the Storm needing a win to extend its league-record 13-season playoff streak, Saunders caught six passes for a season-high 83 yards and three touchdowns, which tied a career high.

"I was in the game at the right time. Coach saw No. 3 (defensive specialist Chris Pointer) opening up a little bit, and he decided to run past him," Saunders said. Coach Tim Marcum said Saunders' involvement was mostly coincidence, with the exception of a hitch-and-go quarterback Shane Stafford called for Saunders that resulted in a 32-yard touchdown.

"Our offense is designed to just execute regardless of who's in there," Marcum said, "so the fact we did go to David was just one of those deals."

KEEPING IT GOING: Storm offensive specialist Freddie Solomon's 40-yard touchdown catch in the first quarter extended his streak of consecutive games played with a scoring catch to 20. The last time Solomon did not catch a touchdown was Week 11 of the 2003 season at Carolina.

FEELING BETTER: The bye week couldn't have come at a better time for receiver/defensive back T.T. Toliver, who is recovering from chicken pox. Toliver, lacking his usual stamina, was limited to a season-low 22 all-purpose yards but recovered a fumble on defense.

SOMETHING OLD, SOMETHING NEW: The Harley-Davidson motorcycles, a staple of previous Storm pregames, returned for the first time since last season. The team also unveiled a video with clips from last season's ArenaBowl win.

STORM FLURRIES: Receiver/defensive back Shevin Smith's three receptions were the first of his career. ... Kicker Ignacio Brache has made 17 consecutive extra points since missing two May 2 at Orlando. ... Fullback/linebacker David White and offensive/defensive lineman Mike Lawson were inactive. ... Lineman D.J. Bleisath was placed on injured reserve.

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