TAMPA — As the final second ticked off the clock, nearly every Storm player jumped in the air to celebrate the win. Not quarterback Randy Hippeard.
He was looking for a place to sit down.
Hippeard shook off an injury in the second half and the defense made a pair of late goal line stands as the Storm rallied for a 56-49 win against Philadelphia in front of 11,062 on Saturday at the Tampa Bay Times Forum.
The victory moved the Storm (6-6) back to .500 for the first time since April 19 and ran its winning streak to three games.
"This puts us right back in the mix," Hippeard said.
Hippeard tossed an interception with the Soul ahead 49-42 in the fourth quarter and appeared to leave the game for good after his knee buckled under a lineman on the play. Following a missed Philadelphia field goal attempt, backup Brendan Crawford entered for two plays but Hippeard limped back onto the field.
"I said, '… I have to find my helmet and get back out there and fight with these guys on the field," ' Hippeard said.
Hippeard hit Joe Hills with a 4-yard touchdown pass to tie the score at 49 and then Jammie Kirlew picked up his second sack of the game on fourth and goal to give the Storm possession with 52 seconds to play. On the first play from scrimmage, Hippeard floated one over the top to T.T. Toliver for a 56-49 lead with 46 seconds left. Hippeard had to be carried to the sideline by two Storm linemen.
"He came to us and wanted to go back in the game," coach Lawrence Samuels said. "The team really rallied around him."
But the defense had to stand up one more time.
Philadelphia (6-6) moved down to the Storm 6 with 10 seconds to play. But the Storm forced three straight incomplete passes as time ran out to seal the win.
"We wanted to play good, physical football on the defensive side," Samuels said. "I thought that was one thing we lacked in the first half (of the season) when we were going through our losing streak."
In addition to the late stops, Tampa Bay's James Harrell also returned an interception 16 yards for a score. The former Plant defensive back now has at least one touchdown in three straight games and four total during that span. Uriah Grant also recorded a sack.
The Storm's next game will be at Iowa in the Wells Fargo Arena at 8:05 Saturday.