tampabay.com

Tired Storm wins fourth straight

Even before tragedy struck one of the team's most senior members, the Storm had endured a trying couple of weeks leading up to its game against Arizona on Friday night.

By DAVID MURPHY
Published May 19, 2007


TAMPA -- Even before tragedy struck one of the team's most senior members, the Storm had endured a trying couple of weeks leading up to its game against Arizona on Friday night.

First was a trip to Austin, Texas, during which the team's plane was grounded for repairs and its connecting bus later got lost. Then came a cross-country flight to Los Angeles and a come-from-behind win.

Then on Wednesday came the heartbreaking news that veteran linebacker Nyle Wiren's 34-year-old wife, Caroline, died after giving birth to the couple's first child.

It was enough to sap the emotion out of any team.

But the Storm responded.

"I don't think I've ever been as proud of a football team," coach Tim Marcum said after the Storm beat the Rattlers 59-50 for its fourth straight win and third in the past 12 days.

"Coming off a short week, a long trip to Los Angeles where we come from behind, win the game, and then have this tragedy happen, and to have them fight through and perform like they did, it shows something about these guys."

Just about every player had a role in improving the Storm's record to 5-6. There was rookie quarterback Brett Dietz, 25, brushing off the first two interceptions of his Arena Football League career to tie a team record with eight touchdown passes.

There were receivers T.T. Toliver and Terrill Shaw catching three touchdowns each. There was a flexible defense that made two red-zone stops, one at the end of the first half and another late in the game.

And there was the play of Lawrence Samuels, the veteran ironman who just two days before was standing on the turf at the St. Pete Times Forum recalling the life of Caroline Wiren. He caught two touchdowns and intercepted a pass to set up another score.

"The question is, what wasn't working?" Shaw said. "Every play we called seemed to work."

Much of that was thanks to impressive route-running by Shaw, who caught eight passes for 144 yards, and Toliver, who had 11 catches for 128 yards. And Dietz, after throwing his second interception of the first half, completed seven straight passes, two for touchdowns, and finished 28-of-39 for 352 yards.

Arizona quarterback Sherdrick Bonner, considered one of the greatest players in league history, pulled Dietz aside after the game.

"I told him he looked real poised," said Bonner, who threw seven touchdowns. "I mean, this guy was sitting on the practice squad in Kansas City when we played them. ... He's got a good future."

For now, though, the Storm is content to enjoy its fifth win in six games.

"It feels like we haven't had a day off in the last three weeks," Shaw said.

There's no doubt the team deserves one.

David Murphy can be reached at dmurphy@sptimes.com or (352) 848-1407.