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AFL playoff preview: Storm at Jacksonville

TAMPA — The Storm opens its Arena League playoff run on the road tonight against Jacksonville and will do so with Shane Boyd at quarterback over Randy Hippeard.

"It was neck-and-neck coming out of training camp with (Boyd) and Adrian (McPherson)," coach Dave Ewart said. "Shane has some experience in this league, and he plays the game with both eyes open."

Boyd made his first start of the season last week in the regular-season finale, a 52-44 loss to the Sharks. He was McPherson's backup before hurting his knee in relief against San Antonio on April 12.

Hippeard took over for McPherson after the former FSU star was lost for the season with a hyperextended right knee in a June 15 loss to New Orleans. Hippeard made four consecutive starts, posting 24 touchdowns against four interceptions.

"Randy did a fine job in there," Ewart said. "But he's a first-year guy and needs to get a little more time in there."

Boyd was 27-for-42 for 315 yards, four TDs and one interception last week against Jacksonville.

The Storm enters tonight's matchup on a seven-game losing streak, the longest in team history. It lost both regular-season meetings with Jacksonville.

The keys for the Storm: keeping Boyd upright and minimizing turnovers. Tampa Bay gave up the second-most sacks in the AFL this season (53), and the Sharks set a league record with 45. Boyd was sacked three times last week and lost three fumbles.

"No matter who's in there, we have to take care of the football," Ewart said. "And we're going to have to get rid of the ball quickly."

No home cooking: If the Storm is going to make a run to the ArenaBowl, it must do so on the road. As the No. 4 seed in the American Conference, Tampa Bay has no chance of a home game. The Storm was 2-7 at the Tampa Bay Times Forum this season.

Record-breakers: WR Joe Hills, despite missing two games while attending the Carolina Panthers' rookie minicamp, broke the Storm record for most catches (133) and receiving yards (1,861 yards) in a season. Hills had 11 catches, 144 yards and a TD last week against Jacksonville, extending his record streak of consecutive games with a touchdown to 20 dating to last season. … K Juan Bongarra broke the franchise record for most career extra points (206).

Transactions: The team signed WR Tyrece Gaines (Oregon) this week and placed WR Justin Hilton, who recently signed with the NFL's Titans, on the other league exempt list. The club also released OL Maurice Robinson.

Playoffs: Host Spokane beat Chicago 69-47 in a first-round National Conference game late Thursday. The Shock plays the winner of Sunday's San Jose-Arizona game.

Storm at Jacksonville

When/where: 7 tonight; Jacksonville Veterans Memorial Arena

Radio: 1250-AM

Records: Storm 7-11, Sharks 12-6

At stake: Winner of this first-round playoff game faces either No. 2 seed Philadelphia or No. 3 Orlando in the American Conference Championship.

AFL playoff preview: Storm at Jacksonville 08/02/13 [Last modified: Friday, August 2, 2013 9:13pm]
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