On Saturday night, The Tampa Bay Storm looked for their third straight win over the Washington Valor. It wasn’t easy, but thanks to two late plays, Tampa Bay clinched a playoff spot and won their sixth in a row, 58-57.
With nine seconds left, Sean Brackett threw a touchdown pass to Greg Carr, who made the catch over the corner boards in the end zone. When Brackett went to him again, Carr couldn’t make another catch as the ball went just out of his hands. The Storm recovered the onside kick, and ran out the clock.
It was a tough night for Tampa Bay leading up to the finish, however, as Washington stayed close from the opening kick. Sean Brackett got off to a solid start, finding Charles McClain for the opening score. This started a tradeoff, as both teams scored on their first six possessions.
However, when Kendrick Ings made a catch on a quick-strike drive, the Storm were up 21-18 thanks to two missed extra points and a failed two-point conversion by the Valor. During this time, Joe Hills got an early catch to extend his streak to 76 straight games with a touchdown, just two away from the all-time record.
Play became sloppy in the second quarter, as both teams piled up penalties and turnovers. First, Roger “Spiderman” Jackson fumbled, and Dexter Jackson picked up the ball for Tampa Bay in Washington territory. The Storm nearly returned the favor after Everett Dawkins forced a fumble, but they recovered. It wasn’t enough, as a fourth-down stop led to McClain beating a defender for a 23-yard touchdown and a four-point lead after the first made extra point of the night by the Valor.
Dominic Addison added to the woes when he picked off a Joe Hills bobbled pass and returned it for a touchdown, extending the lead to 11. Hills came back and made history, passing T.T. Toliver for 4th all time in career touchdowns for Tampa Bay, catching his 115th in blue and gold.
After a rare fumbled snap by Randy Hippeard and subsequent recovery by Brandon Sesay, Sean Brackett made the Storm pay by throwing a 15-yard pass to Greg Carr to extend the lead to 38-28.
Both teams pulled out all the stops again, trading touchdowns to keep pace on the next five possessions, including a Hippeard touchdown run. The tide finally turned after Brackett, stepped on by his own center, threw the ball away and earned a flag for intentional grounding. Since he was laying on the ground in the end zone, it was a game-tying safety.
That penalty was just what the Storm needed, as Joe Hills recovered the onside free kick, then broke free from two defenders for a touchdown, setting up the final, fateful drive.
Tampa Bay doesn’t get long to breathe a sigh of relief, as the defending champion and undefeated Philadelphia Soul host the Storm next Saturday, with the #1 overall seed potentially on the line. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. ET at the Wells Fargo Center, and the game will be televised on CBS Sports Network.