tampabay.com

Stafford needs to step up in playoffs

By FRANK PASTOR
Published May 25, 2005


Few players had a bigger hand in the Storm's 78-53, playoff-clinching victory over Columbus on Sunday than quarterback Shane Stafford, who was named the Arena Football League Writers Association player of the week and the league's offensive player of the week.

Now, coach Tim Marcum wants to see the fourth-year signalcaller repeat the performance in the postseason.

"That's something we're looking for," Marcum said. "Shane's been in two playoff games, and we haven't won either one of them."

Actually, Stafford was named game MVP after passing for seven touchdowns in the 12th-seeded Storm's 66-41 upset of No.5 Los Angeles in the first round in 2002.

But he completed only 14 of 39 passes in a loss to eventual champion San Jose in the ArenaBowl semifinals. After playing in NFL Europe during the 2003 championship season, Stafford returned for an opening-round loss to eventual champion San Jose last year.

He has been one of the league's most prolific passers this season, ranking second in total touchdowns (93), third in total offense (4,555 yards) and passing yards (4,522) and sixth in passing touchdowns (83).

With a playoff berth at stake Sunday, Stafford passed for five touchdowns and ran for three more. He completed 26 of 38 passes for 277 yards as the Storm earned the No.4 seed in the National Conference and a spot opposite Georgia in Sunday's opening round.

"Shane had great stats," Marcum said. "We ran a couple of balls in, or he would have thrown for a lot more touchdowns."

HERE TO STAY: In his first two starts, rookie offensive specialist Demetris Bendross made a couple big plays early before opposing defensive backs clamped down on him.

But with Freddie Solomon out with a knee injury, Bendross showed more staying power against Columbus, catching six passes for 95 yards and two touchdowns.

"He's learning to get off the jam," Marcum said.

DOUBLE DUTY: Kicker Matt George was included in a recent Sports Illustrated feature on Arena players with second jobs. George prints 70-mm film of Hollywood movies, including The Polar Express and Batman Begins, during the week and flies from his home in Los Angeles to games on weekends.

"That was pretty cool," George said. "I was very excited. That's big time. I was very taken aback, and I guess surprised to be in SI. That's really nice.'

HELPING HAND: Quarterback Stoney Case, receiver/defensive back Clif Dell, receiver/linebacker Kenny Christian, fullback/linebackers Jeff Cogell and Jarrod Penright and linemen Ricky Hall, Mike Sutton and Jimond Pugh signed hats and pennants and handed out footballs for children at the Interbay Boys & Girls Club on Thursday.

INJURY REPORT: Solomon (knee) is expected to play against Georgia. Lineman Omar Smith is questionable after leaving the Columbus game with an ankle injury. Lineman Mike Lawson (back) was placed on injured reserve.

LOOKING AHEAD: Tickets for a possible National Conference championship game June4 at the St. Pete Times Forum are on sale at Ticketmaster outlets, the Times Forum box office, and at www.tampabaystorm.com Tampa Bay can host if it defeats Georgia and New York beats Orlando on Sunday.

LEAGUE NEWS: Leaguewide attendance averaged 12,872 fans a game, up seven percent from 12,024 last season and a 41-percent increase from 9,155 in 2001.

STORM FLURRIES: Tampa Bay's 78 points Sunday were a season high. ... Stafford set team single-season records for completions (405), pass attempts (631), yards (4,522) and touchdown passes (83). ... Lawrence Samuels established team highs for career receptions (590) and season receptions (123).