TAMPA — Thanks a lot, Spokane.
Tampa Bay needed some help from the Shock on Friday night to have a shot at the South Division title and homefield throughout the playoffs, but visiting Spokane lost to Jacksonville 64-49, sending the Storm on the road for the first round of the Arena League postseason.
"It was our own fault for not beating Jacksonville in the first place," quarterback Brett Dietz said. "We put ourselves in this situation."
Tampa Bay had a chance two weeks ago to lock up the division and homefield in the first two rounds but was beaten at Jacksonville 49-47, ending the Storm's eight-game winning streak.
"We should have taken care of business when we had the chance, but we didn't," Dietz said.
The Jacksonville win means the Storm, a No. 3 seed, travels to second-seeded Tulsa next Saturday for an opening-round playoff game at 8 p.m. The Storm is 5-3 on the road this season. Tulsa defeated Tampa Bay 69-58 in the season opener April 3. The 11-point margin matched the Storm's worst defeat of the season (Tampa Bay also lost by 11 at Milwaukee).
"That first week I don't know if we were out of shape or worn down from training camp, but we were flat against Tulsa," Dietz said. "But it does seem like a long time ago at this point."
Dietz said there is a score to be settled.
"There's definitely a revenge factor," he said. "We have three games to win (in the postseason), and they are the first team in the way."
That's not to say tonight's game at 7:30 against Orlando at the St. Pete Times Forum is inconsequential. The Storm and Predators will be in action during the first week of the playoffs and going into the postseason on a high note is crucial.
"Who wants to go (into the playoffs) after laying an egg in the final game?" Dietz said. "We need to keep our momentum going."
The Storm (11-4) has won nine of its past 10 entering tonight. Orlando (7-8), which has already secured the fourth seed in the National Conference, would like nothing better than to carry its own momentum into the postseason and erase the memory of a 62-50 loss to Tampa May 28. The "War on I-4" is the most prolific rivalry in AFL history.
"There's always something to play for in a Tampa-Orlando game," Storm coach Tim Marcum said.
"There's a lot of tradition and pride on line."