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Tampa Bay Storm surging behind defense

Storm defensive back Brandon Hefflin, right, making a tackle in a win vs. Arizona on May 1, says the defense is starting to jell.

EDWARD LINSMIER | Times

Storm defensive back Brandon Hefflin, right, making a tackle in a win vs. Arizona on May 1, says the defense is starting to jell.

TAMPA — On any given weekend night during the Arena Football League season, scoreboards turn into pinball machines. Points pile up, and often the team with the ball last wins.

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"(The league) is all about scoring," Storm linebacker Cliff Dukes said. "Defense gets overlooked a lot, but getting stops is key."

The Storm has jump-started its season because of the play of its defense. The Storm (4-3) looks to extend its winning streak tonight to three against Oklahoma City (3-5) at the St. Pete Times Forum.

"We're starting to jell as a defensive unit," cornerback Brandon Hefflin said. "It took us a little time, but we have some veterans on this team, and their leadership has turned this around."

Tampa Bay has held opponents to 50 points or fewer in each of its past three games.

"I'm very proud of the way we've been playing defense of late," coach Tim Marcum said. "We've been able to get off the field when we needed to."

Last week the Storm ended Orlando's three-game winning streak with a 62-50 win. Cornerback Daryon Brutley led the way in his second game with the Storm, earning the league's defensive player of the week honors with 12½ tackles, two passes defended and an interception.

"(Brutley's) just come in here and done a fantastic job," Marcum said.

Against the Predators, the defensive backfield was aided by Tampa Bay's pass rush. The Storm recorded three sacks — two from Dukes — and harassed quarterback Nick Hill all night.

"Those guys up front were bringing the heat," Hefflin said.

Most of the pressure came from lineman Tim McGill, who had his strongest game of the season. The 6-foot-2, 345-pounder didn't have a tackle or a sack, but he disrupted the offense with 11 pressures.

"It's similar to back in the day when the Bucs had (Warren) Sapp pressuring the middle and it freed up (defensive end) Simeon Rice to get all those sacks," Marcum said. "When Big Tim does that, it makes it a heck of a lot easier to play defensive back."

Hefflin said he thinks the Storm has righted its ship after an inconsistent start.

"I think we're a championship-caliber team, and we're starting to show it," he said.

"Anything less than reaching that goal would be disappointing."

up next

Storm vs. Oklahoma City

When/where: 7:30 tonight; St. Pete Times Forum, Tampa

TV/radio: BHSN; 1250-AM

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

Notable: A charity media flag football game will be played before the game. Doors open at 4:30 p.m. … The Lightning Foundation will host a 50/50 raffle, with proceeds benefitting the Angelus Foundation and the American Cancer Society. … The Storm will honor Jefferson High quarterback Quentin Williams, the St. Petersburg Times' 2009 All-Suncoast offensive player of the year.

Tampa Bay Storm surging behind defense 06/04/10 [Last modified: Friday, June 4, 2010 11:38pm]
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