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Storm still in running to host ArenaBowl

It's official _ the Storm will host a playoff game at 7:30 p.m. Aug. 9.

Tampa Bay clinched at least one home playoff game, and two if it wins again this week, when it beat Arizona 69-48 Saturday.

The Storm wraps up its season Friday at expansion Texas, which is 1-12.

The Storm would need help to host a third playoff game _ the ArenaBowl. It needs to win and Iowa must lose to Connecticut.

The Barnstormers share an 11-2 record with the Storm, but have a better record against common opponents. If Iowa loses in the playoffs and the Storm makes it to the championship, Tampa Bay would host the ArenaBowl.

Connecticut (2-11) is coached by former Storm coach Lary Kuharich. The Coyotes lost to Iowa 51-18 on May 18. Since then though, they have added WR Willie Culpepper and QB Aaron Garcia to their starting lineup.

PREDATOR WATCH: Orlando and Tampa Bay could meet in the first round next week, which, considering the rivalry, probably would be the toughest first-round game ever between teams seeded so far apart.

If Tampa Bay and Iowa win, the Storm would be a No. 2 seed. Orlando would need to beat Anaheim and have Milwaukee lose to Albany to gain the No. 7 seed.

If Tampa Bay wins and Iowa loses, the Storm would be a No. 1 seed. If Orlando loses to Anaheim, the Predators would be No. 8.

In either case, that would send Orlando to the ThunderDome.

If neither scenario plays out, there is no way Tampa Bay and Orlando can meet until the ArenaBowl (it would be at the ThunderDome).

If the Storm wins this week, it could play Albany, Anaheim, Orlando or St. Louis in the opening round.

LEAGUE MVP: Jay Gruden, who completed 17 straight passes to set a team record in Saturday's win, was named the league's Player of the Week. Gruden finished 24-of-31 for 321 yards and seven touchdowns.

GIANT AWAKENS: Lineman Sylvester Bembery had one of his best games Saturday night, and it came after a few weeks of quiet play.

He had nine pressures, one sack and caused the final fumble that Ivan Caesar returned for a touchdown.

"I can't remember a guy ever having that many pressures," coach Tim Marcum said. "He cut loose this week."

HEALING: Tracey Perkins has helped shut down Orlando's Barry Wagner and Arizona's Calvin Schexnayder and Hunkie Cooper the past two weeks. He credits the defensive line, but also says the knee he injured in the preseason finally is healed.

"I'm getting a little better," Perkins said. "The knee's feeling a lot better, and my confidence is coming back."

COMING BACK: Defensive specialist Tracy Sanders, who has not played this year because of a bad shoulder and high blood pressure, practiced Monday and if he practices the rest of the week should play Friday.

Marcum expected RB Cedric McKinnon back Monday, but he was unable to work out.

"I thought he would practice today, and he didn't," said Marcum, who also is hoping for the return of Tony Jones (shoulder) by the playoffs.

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