Tampa Bay Sports Day

AFL: Tampa Bay Storm Sign Stephens and Shutt; Visit Baltimore

The Storm signed defensive backs Paul Stephens and Anthony Shutt along with wide receiver Josh Bush.

The Tampa Bay Storm (2-1) will head to Charm City when it takes on the Baltimore Brigade (1-2) this Sunday at Royal Farms Arena.  Kickoff is set for 1:00 p.m. ET.

This will be the first-ever meeting between the Storm and Brigade. Baltimore, the League’s youngest franchise, will host the League’s oldest in Tampa Bay.

While this is the first matchup between these two franchises, it is not the first time the Storm has faced a team led by head coach Omarr Smith. Smith holds a winning record of 2-0 when facing Tampa Bay.

The Storm comes into this matchup following its first bye week of the season. The team will look to improve its record to 3-1, a mark it hasn’t seen since the 2014 season. In order to do so, the team will put the ball in the hands of quarterback Randy Hippeard, who is putting up tremendous numbers. Last time out, Hippeard completed 78.7% of his passes, accounting for all nine (7-passing; 2-rushing) of the team’s offensive touchdowns.

Tampa Bay’s offense is a well-oiled machine once the motor starts. This was evident during its week three matchup versus the Cleveland Gladiators. That night saw three Storm receivers (Joe Hills, LaMark Brown and Kendrick Ings) each have 10 or more receptions, with Hills and Brown collecting 141 and 142 receiving yards, respectively. Hills continued his assault on opposing defenses, reeling in four touchdowns on the night. He now has a receiving touchdown in 71 consecutive regular season games.

The Storm will have to beware of the Baltimore defense, especially the team’s defensive line. The Brigade is second in the League with 8.0 sacks on the season. The line is led by defensive lineman Khreem Smith who has recorded 4.0 sacks on the season. The Storm offensive line will need to be locked in and ready to go to prevent this stout defensive line from getting into a rhythm.

Offensively, the Brigade is led by rookie quarterback Shane Carden. The East Carolina standout has started in 2-of-3 games this season and has shown that he has the tools necessary to succeed under center. This past weekend versus the Philadelphia Soul, Carden had his best game, completing 21-of-32 passes for 258 yards and five touchdowns. So far this season, Carden has been able to take care of the ball, throwing 14 touchdowns to just four interceptions.

However, if Baltimore is to succeed offensively, it must keep Carden upright. The team has allowed 9.0 sacks through three games, including 4.0 this past Saturday. Look for the Storm defense to push the pocket to disrupt the flow of the Brigade offense. By moving Carden off his mark and applying pressure, the Storm defensive backfield should be put in prime position to force turnovers.

After starting out the season 2-1, the Storm will be looking to continue its winning ways. But the team cannot take Baltimore lightly. The team is the new kid on the block and it will want to show that it can take out the oldest, most storied team in AFL history.

STORM ADDS TO BOTH SIDES OF THE BALL
The Storm signed defensive backs Paul Stephens and Anthony Shutt along with wide receiver Josh Bush.
 
“All three of these gentlemen add veteran presence to the football field,” said vice president of football operations Jeff Gooch.  “They all have the ability to change the game and will be a spark to their respective units.”
 
Stephens (5-foot-9, 178 lbs., Central Missouri) joins the Storm for his first season in the blue and gold.  The five-year veteran comes to the Storm after spending the past two seasons (2015-16) with the Orlando Predators.  He finished his 2016 campaign with 75.0 tackles, 1.0 tackle for loss, 12 pass breakups and six interceptions.
 
The Missouri City, TX native began his collegiate career at Blinn College before moving on to Arkansas State and then settling in at Central Missouri.  He finished his senior season with 73.0 tackles, five pass breakups, four interceptions with two returned for touchdowns, a forced fumble and a blocked kick.
 
Shutt (6-foot, 185 lbs., Florida A&M), a three-year veteran of the AFL, enters his first season in a Storm uniform.  He last played for the Orlando Predators in 2015 when he finished the season with 18.5 tackles and four pass breakups.  Shutt played three seasons with the Predators, tallying 141.0 tackles, 15 pass breakups, three interceptions, three fumble recoveries, a fumble return and a defensive touchdown.
 
The Jacksonville native played collegiately at Florida A&M University, finishing his senior season with 50.0 tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss, four pass breakups, three interceptions, a forced fumble and a blocked kick.
 
Bush (5-foot-9, 165 lbs., Western Michigan) enters his first season with the Storm.  The nine-year veteran began his AFL career with the Grand Rapids Rampage in 2004.  He would go on to spend time with the Columbus Destroyers, Dallas Vigilantes, New Orleans VooDoo and most recently the Orlando Predators.
 
A player from the Ironman era, Bush can play both offense and defense.  Offensively, Bush has reeled in 454 receptions for 5,543 yards and 99 touchdowns to go along with 47 rushing attempts for 205 yards and seven scores.  Defensively, Bush has recorded 167.5 tackles, 16 pass breakups, three interceptions, two fumble recoveries and a defensive touchdown.  The Miami native can also factor into the return game, as he has 337 kick returns for 6,396 yards and 14 touchdowns.