TAMPA — It took 10 weeks for new Storm coach Dave Ewart to win a home game last season. This year it only took two, with a dash of history mixed in.
The Storm, wearing new blue home uniforms, became the first team in Arena Football League history to reach 200 regular-season wins, defeating visiting division-rival Georgia 50-47 before a rowdy crowd of 16,054 Friday night at the Tampa Bay Times Forum.
"We have the best fans in the country," Ewart said. "We're a lot better football team at home."
The crowd was the largest to see a Storm game since Week 18 against Orlando in 2010. The largest home crowd last season was 12,226.
"Personally, this is largest home crowd I've played in cheering for me," said Storm quarterback Stephen Wasil, who played at Division III Albion (Mich.). "It was awesome."
After a 70-48 loss at Chicago, the Storm played with the lead the entire game Friday and evened its 2012 record at 1-1. It is 200-116 overall in regular-season games.
Wasil hit receiver Chandler Williams with an 11-yard touchdown on the Storm's first possession, and Tampa Bay extended the lead to 21 at one point in the third quarter.
Georgia scored twice in the final minute to cut the lead to three with 12 seconds to play, but Prechae Rodriguez swatted the Force's onside kick out of bounds and the Storm ran out the clock.
Wasil was a bit shaky in the first half, going 13-for-28 for 155 yards with a pair of touchdowns and an interception. But he bounced back in the final two quarters, going 12-for-17 for 143 yards and two TDs.
"I was rushing myself in the first half and was pressing," Wasil said. "I settled down in the second and wasn't trying to make the perfect pass."
With Amarri Jackson out for the second straight game, Rodriguez was again Wasil's favorite target. The former Jefferson High wideout caught 11 passes for 164 and a touchdowns after hauling in 12 balls for 186 yards and three scores last week against Chicago.
"Prechae made some big plays again," Wasil said.
Tampa Bay's defense was impressive in the first half, holding the Force to 13 points. The Storm got an interception from Riley Swanson and stopped Georgia on three of four possessions.
"We put in some things trying to force them to go over the top," Ewart said.
The Storm reeled off 20 straight first-half points to take control. Wasil found Williams for the second time in the half, this time from 23 yards out to give the Storm a 14-6 lead with 10:32 left in the second quarter.
C.J. Johnson then mishandled the ensuing kick off and former Buc Mark Jones pounced on the ball in the end zone.
After another defensive stop, Michael Lindsey ran off right tackle from 3 yards out for a 27-6 Storm lead.