SPOKANE, Wash. — History was of no help to the Storm on Friday night.
Despite having the pedigree of five previous Arena Football League championships, the Storm was undone by a rookie in ArenaBowl XXIII, the Spokane Shock rolling to a 69-57 victory in front of a sellout crowd of 11,017 at Spokane Arena.
Kyle Rowley threw nine touchdown passes — four apiece to former Storm, USF and Springstead High receiver Huey Whittaker and 6-foot-7 Markee White — and the Shock (16-3) capitalized on three Tampa Bay turnovers to win a championship in its first year in the revamped arena league. Spokane won two titles in four seasons as a member of af2, the arena developmental league.
"There's a line in On the Waterfront when they tell Marlon Brando, 'Terry, it ain't your night,' " said Storm coach Tim Marcum, who was denied an eighth ArenaBowl title (he also had one with Denver, three with Detroit). "Well, it just wasn't our night. It's been a great year, and it's a shame it ended this way." The American Conference champion Storm finished 13-6 after its seventh ArenaBowl appearance.
The second of two interceptions thrown by Storm quarterback Brett Dietz was the tipping point. Spokane's Travis Williams took away a deep ball from Hank Edwards (11 catches, 132 yards, two touchdowns) at the Shock 1-yard line on the Storm's first snap of the second half.
"The receiver's got to go get that," Marcum said. "You can't just let a defensive back go up and time the ball over a guy who's 6-3; that's not good football."
Dietz disagreed: "That's 100 percent on me."
On the ensuing drive, Spokane pushed its lead to 48-28, helped by three Storm offside penalties. The touchdown came on a 30-yard pass from Rowley to the 6-5 Whittaker, left uncovered when defender Erick McIntosh fell.
"We had some combination coverages where we busted coverage, and they're always going to make you pay," Marcum said.
Rowley completed 24 of 32 passes for 237 yards, with no interceptions, and ran for another touchdown. Dietz, the second-team All-AFL quarterback, was 29-of-40 for 306 yards, four touchdowns and two interceptions.
Back-to-back Storm turnovers — a fumble by Dietz that Spokane lineman Richard Clebert ran back 33 yards, and an interception by Mervin Brookins — allowed Spokane to take control in the second quarter. The Shock ran off 20 straight points despite losing two defensive starters, lineman Jerry Turner and defensive back Alex Teems, to injury on the first series.
Spokane's advantage held up until the last minute of the half. After the Storm cut the Shock lead to a touchdown, kicker Garrett Rivas recovered an onside kick. Terrence Royal's 6-yard touchdown run and Rivas' point-after put the Storm back on top 28-27.
"But we scored too quick," Dietz said. "We call that a 'leapfrog,' and it was like another turnover for us."
The Shock got the lead back when Brookins ran the kickoff to midfield and White was left uncovered on a 22-yard pass.
When Emory Sammons blocked Rivas' 41-yard field-goal attempt, the Shock kept its 34-28 edge.