TAMPA — Former USF receiver Amarri Jackson torched Orlando's secondary for five touchdowns, Tampa Bay's defense held one of the Arena Football League's best offenses in check and the Storm won back-to-back home games for the first time this season, holding off the Predators 46-44 before an announced crowd of 11,151 Saturday night at the St. Pete Times Forum.
The Storm (6-7) saw its 23-point second-half lead nearly evaporate as the game came down to the final seconds. With the Storm leading 46-44, Jackson was denied the end zone on a fourth-and-8 play that was halted at the 1-yard line with 17.1 second to go. Orlando took over and quarterback Nick Hill completed a 21-yard pass to T.T. Tolliver, but the Predators were unable to get off another play as time expired.
"We like to make it exciting," Storm coach Dave Ewart said.
The win evened the "War on I-4" series at 24 wins each.
"It's always tough against (Orlando)," Ewart said.
The win against South Division rival Orlando (8-5) kept Tampa Bay's playoff hopes alive. The two division winners in the American Conference move on, with the two next-best records in the conference advancing as well.
"It means we stayed in the playoff hunt, but we have to take one game at a time," Ewart said. "We'll start board-watching later in the year."
The Storm, led by Jarriett Buie's 4 1/2 sacks, recorded seven sacks overall and harassed Hill all night. Orlando came in averaging 324.6 yards of offense a game but finished with 249. The Storm had two interceptions, including an 18-yard TD return by Erick McIntosh, and forced three turnovers on downs.
Cliff Dukes moved a step closer to setting the league's single-season sack record. He finished with 1 1/2, leaving him 2 1/2 short of the mark with five games to play.
"I can't say enough about (the defensive front)," Ewart said. "It's good to see them take control of a game."
Jackson had a huge game, catching 11 passes for 151 yards.
Tampa Bay took the lead for good on a 36-yard touchdown to Jackson to make it 12-7. Marcus Udell picked off Hill on Orlando's next possession, and Brian Zbydniewski again hooked up with Jackson on the ensuing possession, this time for a 30-yard score.
"When we keep Brian standing up, he's been pretty good," Ewart said.
McIntosh picked off a pass near the boards that bounced off a fan. No whistles blew, however, and he weaved down the sideline for a TD to push the lead to 26-7.
Tampa Bay held its biggest lead after an 8-yard Jackson TD catch to open the third quarter.
Hall of Fame finalists: Storm alumni George LaFrance, an offensive specialist, lineman Sylvester Bembery and wide receiver linebacker Stevie Thomas were among the 10 finalists for the 2011 Arena Football Hall of Fame class.