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Storm strikes fast, often for victory

Of all teams, the Arizona Rattlers should know that quick strikes are deadly.

The visiting Tampa Bay Storm, undaunted, though sometimes dazed by the Rattlers' patient offense, stung its hosts with six one-play touchdown drives at the America West Arena in Phoenix Saturday night.

Three touchdowns came off turnovers in the last 30 seconds, giving Tampa Bay a 63-33 victory and a 4-1 record heading into a conference game against Orlando (4-1) at the Florida Suncoast Dome Saturday.

A sellout crowd of 15,505 saw Storm quarterback Jay Gruden throw three one-play scores, 34 and 45 yards to Stevie Thomas and a 25-yarder to Jeff Mayes.

"Going into the game I thought we could have our way with the secondary," Storm coach Lary Kuharich said Sunday. "I guess that was as pure as you could get it when you hit with just one shot That was the most pleasing thing in the 60-minute effort."

The Storm, which trailed Arizona 15-3 in the first quarter, was sluggish in the first half.

"We had a long layoff, the time change and then they had the ball for the first seven minutes. We were standing on the sidelines stiff as a board," Gruden said.

Rattlers quarterback Paul Justin threw 54 passes, completing 27 for 284 yards, and connected with offensive specialist Hunkie Cooper 19 times (218 yards) for all four Arizona touchdowns.

Cooper was named MVP and Gruden was named the Ironman _ usually given to the best two-way player. It took Gruden just 20 minutes to complete 13-of-22 passes for 206 yards and four touchdowns.

"The offense wasn't on the field very much, especially in the first half," Gruden said.

In the first half, the Rattlers' offense held the ball for all but 6:23, yet led only 21-17.

Leading 28-27 after three quarters, the Storm broke open the game on the first play of the fourth, when Gruden found Thomas in the end zone and Arden Czyzewski added the extra point for a 35-27 advantage.

"We made a lot of mistakes and playing at midnight (EDT) took its toll," Thomas said.

But the late scoring barrage and his two touchdown catches more than made up for the slow beginning.

"That was a good way to go out," Thomas said.