Saturday, May 26, 2018
Tampa Bay Storm

Tampa Bay Storm hopes to end road woes at Cleveland Gladiators

TAMPA — The good news is the Storm is undefeated at home in 2012. The bad news is the Storm is winless on the road.

It will try to change that losing trend tonight when the Storm (5-4) hosts Cleveland (5-3).

"If I knew why (we are winless on the road), I'd be a rich man," coach Dave Ewart said.

Tampa Bay has lost its four road games by an average of 19.75 points, and that's counting a three-point loss at Georgia.

"Everyone plays better at home, but I think it's a matter of focus for us," Ewart said. "We have to be better."

Scouting Cleveland: Tampa Bay defeated the Gladiators 69-48 on April 13, and the Storm holds a 7-4 advantage in the all-time series. Coming off consecutive victories, Cleveland is 12th in the league in scoring at 52.6 points per game. It has been particularly good in two key aspects: protecting the quarterback (allowed league-low three sacks) and third-down efficiency (league-best 61.1 percent).

"They have a veteran QB (John Dutton) who's seen it all," Ewart said. "And they're a playoff team from last year that's managed to stick together at all the key positions."

Cleveland is first in the league in total defense and gives up an AFL-best 47.5 points per game.

Top rookie? compiled a list of potential award winners at the season's midway point and WR Prechae Rodriguez was one of five leading candidates for rookie of the year. Rodriguez, a Jefferson High graduate, leads all rookies with 72 catches for 967 yards and 24 touchdowns. He has multiple TDs in six straight games.

Watch the clock: In the Storm's earlier victory over Cleveland the big swing came near the end of the first half. The score was tied at 21 with 3:46 left in the first half, and Cleveland had the ball and would get the first possession of the second half as well. But instead of milking the clock, Cleveland scored too quickly, going up 27-21 with more than a minute to play. WR Amarri Jackson, who played at USF, caught a 44-yard touchdown pass from Stephen Wasil, and two plays later Lendy Holmes had a 53-yard interception return for a touchdown to put Tampa Bay ahead 34-27. The Storm had another interception during the Gladiators' first possession of the second half.

"It was huge because it created two possessions for us," 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."