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Two-game losing skid suddenly bites Storm

The Arizona Rattlers win 55-49 in OT as Tampa Bay has consecutive defeats after a 7-0 start.

By Times staff writer

© St. Petersburg Times,
published June 16, 2001

TAMPA -- The Storm unveiled golden pants Friday night, but failed to turn in a performance to match.

Trailing most of game, the Storm rallied to pull even and send it into overtime before falling to Arizona 55-49.

A crowd of 14,228, an Ice Palace record for Arena League Football, watched as both teams missed field goals in the final minute of regulation. Tampa Bay's Mike Black misfired from 36 yards at the final horn.

In the extra period, Storm quarterback John Kaleo scrambled unsuccessfully on fourth and 2 to quash Tampa Bay's drive, giving the Rattlers (6-3) the ball on the 15. With one quick 12-yard pass from Sherdrick Bonner to game MVP Calvin Schexnayder, it was over.

Coach Tim Marcum said he elected not to attempt a field goal in the extra period because he did that in the 1997 playoff semifinal, against Arizona, and lost.

"I learned a long time ago all that (a field goal) is going to do is get you beat," Marcum said. "Field goals will not win overtime games. I did it in 1997 and it didn't take them long to come right back and score a TD. So we never second-guessed it to go for it tonight."

The exciting finish was almost enough to make everyone forget that Storm offensive specialist James Bowden left in the second quarter after being squashed from behind on a kickoff return. Driven into the turf with the ball underneath him, Bowden bruised his sternum and did not return.

"We missed him," Marcum said. "We missed his kickoff returns and we missed his yards after the catch."

The overtime was a stark reminder of his absence. In the Storm's last overtime game three weeks ago, Bowden caught three of Kaleo's passes on the winning drive, but was nowhere to be found Friday as the Storm dropped its second straight after seven consecutive wins.

With his favorite target and the league's leader in touchdowns and all-purpose yards per game out, Kaleo had another subpar effort. He twice threw interceptions immediately after the Storm picked off Bonner, and he finished 22-for-42 for 223 yards.

He got the Storm even, though, when it mattered. With Tampa Bay trailing 42-28 late in the third quarter, Kaleo threw to Bernard Edwards for a 6-yard score to make it 42-35 going into the final quarter.

After the Rattlers failed to score, the Storm capped a 10-play drive with Kaleo's 2-yard run on fourth down to tie.

Bonner and Schexnayder answered Kaleo's run with a 40-yard screen pass to retake the lead, but again the Storm struggled back to a tie. Kaleo found Gunnard Twyner for a 15-yard score with 1:00 left.

The Rattlers missed a field with 21 seconds left, giving Tampa Bay an opportunity to win. But Black, who made one against Carolina June 1 at the buzzer to force overtime, missed this time.

The Storm never led despite intercepting two passes and getting the ball after two missed field goals. In its last three games, the Storm has forced five turnovers and gotten the ball after missed kicks three times, but turned them into just 13 points.

Schexnayder led all players with 13 catches for 163 yards, more than the top three Storm receivers combined. Bonner torched the Storm for 316 yards and seven touchdowns, completing 27 of 40 passes.

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