Friday, June 22, 2018
Tampa Bay Storm

Storm eyeing playoff scenarios

TAMPA — As playoff time comes into view, most coaches choose to ignore the postseason chatter and focus on the present. A much smaller number of coaches talk openly about what lies ahead.

Count the Storm's Lawrence Samuels as one of the latter.

"You can't overlook it because it's right in front of you," he said of the playoffs. "All of our goals are right there."

The Storm (8-7), winner of five of its past six games and coming off a bye week, continues its playoff push tonight at San Jose (11-4) for the first of three season-ending games that will decide its future.

"I thought we played pretty well (in a 48-41 loss at Cleveland on June 27), but the bye came at a perfect time," Samuels said. "It gave the guys a time to heal up a little, and as coaches, we got two weeks to prepare for a very good San Jose team."

The Storm has the same record as Orlando in the South Division, but the Predators hold the tiebreaker. Tampa Bay is in the American Conference's final wild-card slot.

A win against San Jose coupled with an Orlando loss Monday would vault the Storm into sole possession of first place in the division. It would also move Tampa Bay from No. 2 to No. 4 in conference playoff seeding.

A Storm loss would drop Tampa Bay to 8-8, the same record as idle Philadelphia. But the Storm, by virtue of a 2-1 season series record against the Soul, holds the tiebreaker advantage.

The Storm faces a tough gauntlet to reach the playoffs for the second consecutive year. After the game at San Jose, Tampa Bay plays at Spokane (8-7) and hosts Cleveland (14-1) to close out the regular season.

The Storm lost to visiting Spokane on April 26 and on the road to Cleveland last month. Cleveland has clinched a playoff berth and would secure homefield advantage throughout the American Conference playoffs with a win on Saturday against San Antonio.

"All our goals are attainable and within our grasp," Samuels said. "We address the playoffs with (the team), and to be honest, I like where we are at."

Grant Out: The team lost a key piece along the defensive line when Uriah Grant was lost for the season with a torn labrum. Grant, who had 2½ sacks and a fumble recovery, was placed on injured reserve Monday. During the bye week, the team signed DLs Quincy Barr and Ishmyl Johnson.

About the SaberCats: San Jose enters tonight on a four-game winning streak and is ranked No. 2 in the latest coaches poll. The SaberCats have already locked up the Pacific Division title and will be seeded second in the playoffs.

The SaberCats are the lone team to defeat Arizona this year, 62-33 on June 27. San Jose led 55-7 after three quarters. The SaberCats have held the opposition to 40 points or fewer 11 times this season.

San Jose is tied for second in the league with 34 sacks and is tops in fumble recoveries with 15. Jason Stewart is third in the league with 11½ sacks, and Francis Maka is eighth with eight. Clevan Thomas is tied for seventh with eight interceptions.