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Tampa Bay Storm beats Cleveland Gladiators 69-48

Lendy Holmes returns an interception a franchise-record 53 yards for a touchdown to put the Storm up 34-27.

Tampa Bay Storm

Lendy Holmes returns an interception a franchise-record 53 yards for a touchdown to put the Storm up 34-27.

TAMPA — No Prechae Rodriguez, no problem for the Storm.

Rodriguez, a Jefferson High graduate and the Arena Football League's leading receiver with 43 catches, was inactive for Friday's game against Cleveland with concussion-like symptoms from a hit he sustained a week earlier at New Orleans.

In his absence, Victor Williams and Amarri Jackson shined.

Jackson, a former USF standout, had three touchdowns and Williams two in the Storm's 69-48 victory over the Gladiators before an announced crowd of 8,686 at the Tampa Bay Times Forum.

"At our receiver spot, we have a lot of playmakers," Jackson said. "It could have been anybody. We just make plays."

Tampa Bay (3-2) made plays on its first three drives, scoring touchdowns on each.

Williams turned a short crossing route on the game's third play into a 26-yard score. Stephen Wasil (19-of-28, 249 yards, six touchdowns passing, two touchdowns rushing) sneaked in from a yard out and Williams snared his second touchdown, a 29-yarder with 4:19 left in the first quarter, to push the Storm's advantage to 21-7.

Cleveland (3-2) answered on the first play of the second quarter after a double move by receiver Robert Redd got him open for a 29-yard touchdown. A Wasil interception on the ensuing series preceded Redd's second touchdown, which tied it at 21 with 8:57 left in the first half.

Cleveland briefly held the lead after John Dutton's 32-yard pass to Dominick Goodman. (Eugene Kinlaw blocked the extra point.) But the Storm went back in front 39 seconds later when Jackson caught a shallow crossing route, spun out of the grasp of a tackler and outraced the secondary for a 44-yard score.

With the Gladiators threatening to score at the end of the first half, Tampa Bay's Lendy Holmes made the play of the game, catching a ricochet off the goal post in the end zone and racing 53 yards for a touchdown and 34-27 halftime lead. The interception return was the longest in Storm history.

"It was huge because it created two possessions for us," Storm coach Dave Ewart said. "That last minute, when you don't have the ball coming out of the second half, you've got to finish with the football or you're letting them get two for one. We were able to do that, play the last minute right, and it worked out for us."

Defensive back Erick McIntosh thwarted a Cleveland drive to start the third quarter, and Jackson gave the Storm a two-touchdown advantage with a 7-yard scoring reception.

After the teams traded scores, the Storm put the game out of reach with 10:10 remaining when Wasil found Chandler Williams (team-high eight receptions) for an 11-yard touchdown and 55-34 lead.

Storm 69

Cleveland 48

Tampa Bay Storm beats Cleveland Gladiators 69-48 04/13/12 [Last modified: Saturday, April 14, 2012 12:25am]

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