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Tampa Bay Storm, Orlando Predators resume 'War on I-4' on Friday

TAMPA — There's Yankees-Red Sox in baseball, Duke-North Carolina in college basketball and Michigan-Ohio state in college football. In Arena Football, it's Tampa Bay-Orlando.

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The series, dubbed the "War on I-4," resumes at 8 p.m. Friday when the Storm visits the Predators in a game televised by the NFL Network.

"It usually gets pretty heated," Storm coach Tim Marcum said.

The rivalry dates to 1993, when Orlando joined the Arena Football League and the Pittsburgh Gladiators, one of the four original franchises, moved to Tampa Bay and became the Storm. And other than the Storm, no franchise has been around longer than the Predators.

The teams have met 43 times in the regular season and postseason with the Predators holding a 22-21 advantage. The Storm (3-3) comes into Friday's game having won the past two by sweeping the 2008 season series.

"You can see it in the players that there is a little something extra in everybody's step this week at practice," said LB Cliff Dukes, who will be playing his first game against Orlando. "There's been a lot more fire in the coaches' speeches, and we're looking forward to a war."

Marcum, the winningest coach in Arena League history, said motivating his players to face Orlando (3-3) doesn't take much.

"If you can't play with intensity and passion against Orlando, then there is something wrong," he said. "And if that's the case, then you're out of here. I don't want you around."

There have been some memorable games in the rivalry:

• In 1993, Orlando eked out a 46-45 win in front of a league-record 28,746 at the ThunderDome (now called Tropicana Field) when Tampa Bay failed on a 2-point conversion in the closing minutes. But the Storm won 55-52 in the semifinals that season on its way to a second championship.

• The Storm won its third Arena­Bowl in 1995, Marcum's first season as coach, 48-35.

• After Tampa Bay twice dismantled Orlando during the 1998 regular season, the Predators exacted revenge with a 62-31 upset in the ArenaBowl.

• The next season, the Predators became the first No. 8 seed in league history to beat a No. 1 with a 41-19 playoff victory.

"This age is all about tradition," Dukes said. "I'd heard about the 'War on I-4' before I really even knew anything about Arena Football."

Another factor is Orlando coach Pat O'Hara, who played and coached for Marcum in Tampa Bay. He replaced injured QB John Kaleo in the 2003 Arena­Bowl and led Tampa Bay to the title. The first-year Orlando coach also was Marcum's offensive coordinator from 2005-08.

"This is a family feud," Marcum said. "We're like the Hatfields and McCoys of Arena ball."

Transactions: The Storm re-signed OL Greg Hammonds this week. DB Deonte Bolden, who tore his right ACL on May 14 against Bossier-Shreveport and is out for the season, was placed on injured reserve.

Storm Chasing: The Storm is inviting all aspiring journalists and broadcasters to spend a day with the pros June 5, when it hosts Oklahoma City. Local journalists will offer tips during the free seminar, which is open to students in Grades 7-12. All those interested need to submit a 100-word report, 60-second video or 60-second radio promo detailing why they should be selected to msammon@sptimes.com by 5 p.m. June 1.

up next

Storm at Orlando

When/where: 8 p.m. Friday; Amway Arena

TV/radio: NFL Network; 1250-AM

Next home game: vs. Oklahoma City, 7:30 p.m. June 5

Tickets: (813) 301-6600 or tampabaystorm.com

Tampa Bay Storm, Orlando Predators resume 'War on I-4' on Friday 05/26/10 [Last modified: Wednesday, May 26, 2010 9:29pm]
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