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A perfect Storm is too much

Tampa Bay pours it on late, beating Toronto 70-33 to improve to 4-0 on the season.

By JOHN C. COTEY

© St. Petersburg Times, published May 13, 2001


photo
[Times photo: Toni L. Sandys]
Storm receiver Bernard Edwards is congratulated by fellow receiver James Bowden after his touchdown catch to end the first half.
TAMPA -- The Storm defense, which has turned in a series of big plays late in three victories, was beaten to the punch Saturday night by the player no bigger than your average jockey.

Kicker Mike Black, dubbed "Peanut" by coach Tim Marcum because of his 5-foot-6, 145-pound frame, recovered his kickoff with less than two minutes left in third quarter to spur the Storm to a 70-33 victory over Toronto before 12,654 at the Ice Palace.

Black's kickoff recovery on the Toronto 13-yard line led to Nyle Wiren's touchdown run three plays later and set off a string of big plays that turned a back-and-forth game into a Tampa Bay rout.

After James Bowden's 15-yard touchdown reception gave the Storm a 41-33 lead, Black's kickoff bounced off the net's metal frame and skipped by Anthony Derricks -- the Arena League's leading kick returner -- and Damian Harrell into onrushing traffic. Trailing on the play, Black fell on the loose ball after it squirted out of a crowd.

"It feels great to get my hands on the ball besides just teeing it up," Black said. "It's a kicker's dream. The guys did a great job keeping it alive. We've had a few of those but never recovered it. It was good to get the first one."

Nothing went right for the Phantoms (2-3) the rest of the night. The Storm defense may have been beaten for the game's turning point for the first time this season, but it more than made up for it in the fourth quarter.

After leading 13-0 after six minutes and then exchanging scores with the Storm the first three quarters, Toronto imploded on the four possessions after Black's recovery with two lost fumbles, an interception and another botched kickoff that led to a safety.

The first fumble was caused by defensive specialist Tommy Henry after Kerry Brown caught a 10-yard pass. Scooped up by Wiren at the Storm 19, it led to John Kaleo's 3-yard run to make the score 54-33.

The ensuing kickoff was fumbled by Harrell and pitched to Derricks, who could not get out of the end zone before Storm lineman Rod Williams crashed him into the boards.

Kaleo threw his sixth touchdown of the game to Bernard Edwards to make it 63-33.

Reserve quarterback Shane Stafford, who played for Tallahassee in ArenaFootball2 last season, threw his first AFL touchdown to Harvey Middleton to give the Storm 70 points for the fourth time in its past 10 wins.

"We created turnovers when it mattered, in the second half," said Kaleo, who threw for 222 yards.

The Storm, off to a 4-0 start for the first time since 1996 and 27-0 all-time when scoring 60 or more, overcame a shaky start as the Phantoms scored twice before Tampa Bay even had a chance to throw a pass.

After Harrell caught a 12-yard touchdown on the game's opening drive, Kaleo fumbled the snap and Toronto scored in the span of two plays to put the Storm in an early hole.

But Kaleo and Bowden, who had three receiving touchdowns and one rushing, rallied the team and the defense managed to hold Toronto to a pair of field goals in the second quarter to get the Storm back in front by halftime 27-26.

In the second half, Toronto ran just 11 plays and had seven points; the Storm ran 35 and scored 43.

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