Thursday, June 21, 2018
Tampa Bay Storm

Storm loses, fails to clinch playoff berth

TAMPA — Randy Hippeard and Joe Hills connected for four touchdowns for the Storm on Saturday night. But Erik Meyer and Brandon Thompkins connected for five for Spokane, and the Storm lost 63-49 in front of 9,934 at the Tampa Bay Times Forum.

Tampa Bay fell to 7-8 (2-6 at home) with its fourth straight loss. A win would have clinched a playoff berth, and New Orleans' 63-49 win at Utah also prevented the Storm from clinching. The loss also allowed Jacksonville to clinch the South division title.

The Storm's next chance to earn a wild card playoff berth is July 13 at San Antonio.

"We came up short," said Hills, who caught 10 passes for 101 yards. "But we've still got a shot."

Up 35-28, the Storm, which won 70-62 at Spokane on April 27, scored on its first possession of the second half, Hills' 16-yard catch to make it 42-28.

However, Spokane reeled off 21 straight points to take its first lead of the game at 49-42. Meyer threw scoring passes to Adron Tennell and Thompkins. In between, the Storm was stopped on downs. After the second touchdown, the Storm failed to field the kickoff, and Kamar Jorden recovered it in the end zone.

Tampa Bay tied it at 49 1:55 into the fourth quarter on Hills' fourth touchdown from Hippeard, who in his second start for quarterback Adrian McPherson (hyperextended knee) was 23-of-27 for 249 yards and six touchdowns.

It was Hills' 12th touchdown over the past three games against the Shock, dating to last season.

"He's such a good receiver," Hippeard said. "It doesn't have to be a perfect pass. You just throw it up, and he'll come down with it."

Spokane scored the game's final 14 points, going up 56-49 when Meyer found an unusual target, lineman Chris Pino, for a 19-yard touchdown down the left sideline with 9:38 left. After again stopping the Storm on downs, the Shock capped the scoring on Meyer's seventh touchdown pass, and fifth to Thompkins, with 2:25 left.

The Storm's last possession ended on a fumbled snap.

"We just didn't come out and respond," Storm coach Dave Ewart said of the second half. "You can't worry about this one. It's gone."

The teams combined for 21 points over the last 44 seconds of the first half. Tampa Bay had two scores to take a 35-28 lead.

After recovering an onside kick, the Storm went ahead on Hippeard's 14-yard touchdown pass to St. Petersburg's Chris Davis. The former FSU receiver recovered a fumble on the ensuing kickoff to set up Hippeard's 1-yard run off the right side.

But Meyer, 30-for-42 for 303 yards, hit Thompkins for a 10-yard score as time expired.