By FRANK PASTOR, Times Staff Writer
Published February 7, 2005
TAMPA - Storm receiver Clif Dell regretted the one that got away.
But it was the other four the Austin Wranglers were thinking about during the plane ride home.
Substituting for injured offensive specialist Freddie Solomon, Dell caught a career-high four touchdowns to lead the Storm to a 62-45 Arena Football League victory before an announced 10,104 Sunday at the St. Pete Times Forum.
"I scored four, but that last one I dropped is going to haunt me all night," said Dell, a Tampa native and South Florida graduate. "It was probably the easiest one."
There was nothing easy about the victory over Austin (0-2).
Sandwiched between last week's 30-point victory over defending-champion San Jose and Friday's grudge match at Orlando, it had the makings of a trap game.
But the Storm (2-0) shook off a sluggish start and a late Austin rally to win its eighth consecutive regular-season game dating to last season. The penalty-marred win was Tim Marcum's 100th during the regular season as Storm coach.
"It was sloppy," said Marcum, who received a game ball. "Terrible, terrible offside penalties, giving them easy balls down the field. ... I'm disappointed from the way we came from that first game down to this one. We've just got to get better."
Dell, for one, was at the top of his game.
He scored three touchdowns during the second and third quarters to turn a 14-14 tie into a 35-14 lead. He made a one-handed grab then a sliding catch in front of Kelvin Hunter with 18 seconds left in the half to put the Storm ahead to stay, 21-14.
"It was just a poco (post or corner) route," Dell said. "I went toward the post on it. It was low, so I had to dig it out. I slid down and caught it, and the guy never touched me. So I popped up and took off down the field."
Last week, Dell replaced T.T. Toliver (torn MCL) as the shortside receiver. This week, he replaced Solomon, who has a high ankle sprain.
"It's a lot different playing the middle than playing the shortside I usually play," he said. "But ... in practice, I back Freddie up a lot."
Though not as sharp as against San Jose, when he set career marks for completions and touchdown passes, quarterback Shane Stafford was efficient in leading the Storm to touchdowns on nine of 14 possessions. He completed 20 of 30 passes for 278 yards and seven touchdowns with one interception.
Defensive specialist Jonathan Ordway had a career-high two interceptions and tied a team record with a 49-yard interception return for a touchdown.
With the score 7-7 in the second quarter, Austin drove to the Tampa Bay 8 before penalties pushed it back to the 20. On third and goal, John Fitzgerald fired a pass over the middle that Ordway intercepted at the 1. He returned it the length of the field to give the Storm its first lead.
Ernest Certain and Lawrence Samuels recovered fumbles to aid a defensive effort that stopped Austin on seven of 14 possessions.
Dell took care of the rest.
"That just speaks volumes about our team and the type of depth we've got," Ordway said. "Freddie was definitely missed, but guys stepped up and played well. Hopefully, we can continue to do that all season long."