Tampa Bay Sports Day

AFL: Tampa Bay Storm Heads to DC to Face the Valor Saturday

Storm defensive back Paul Stephens (3) returning a fumble 46 yards for a touchdown versus the Baltimore Brigade. (Photo by Baltimore Brigade)

TAMPA BAY – The Tampa Bay Storm (3-1) heads to Washington, D.C. to take on the Valor (1-2) this Saturday, May 13, at The Verizon Center. 

The Storm will be looking to improve its record to 4-1, its best record since the 2001 season when the team started out 6-0.  The game will be broadcast live on CBS Sports Network and the radio call will be streamed on the Lightning Power Play.  Kickoff is set for 7:00 p.m. ET.
This is the first match-up in series history between these two franchises.  While the competition may be new, the Storm is no stranger to teams coached by Washington head coach Dean Cokinos.  Tampa Bay has faced Cokinos nine times, holding a winning record of 5-4. 
While this is the first game between the Storm and Valor, this game holds special significance as Cokinos was Tampa Bay’s assistant head coach and defensive coordinator in 2016, before he left mid-season when he was named the first head coach in Washington Valor history.  In addition, the Valor roster contains nine players from former Storm teams, including seven from the 2016 squad.
The Storm enters the game coming off a thrilling 62-55 victory over the Baltimore Brigade.  Down by one point with under a minute left in regulation, Storm quarterback Randy Hippeard engineered a comeback that saw wide receiver LaMark Brown catch the winning score with just 5.0 seconds left in regulation.  Hippeard finished the night having completed 77.5% of his passes (31-of-40) for 285 yards and eight touchdowns.
An early League MVP candidate, Hippeard has completed 68-of-87 (78.2%) passes for 672 yards, 15 touchdowns and zero interceptions over the course of the past two games.  His 68 completions are the most over a two-game span in team history.  Hippeard also has a 78.2% completion percentage over the past two games, the second best behind Brett Dietz who completed 78.6% (55-of-70) of his passes over a two-game stretch in 2010.
Storm receivers Joe Hills and LaMark Brown continue to blaze a trail through the League.  Versus the Brigade, Hills finished the night with 13 catches for 126 yards and four touchdowns, while his teammate caught 11 passes for 91 yards and three touchdowns. 

This was the second consecutive game in which the team had multiple receivers with 10 or more receptions.  Hills and Brown are in the top-five of several receiving categories, including scoring where Hills leads the League with 74 points while Brown is in fourth with 56.
Washington enters the game after spending last week on a bye.  In its last outing, the Valor lost to the Cleveland Gladiators by a score of 48-34.  Over the past two losses, the Valor has shown a pattern of starting off well, but faltering in the second half. 

More specifically, in its last two losses, one to the Philadelphia Soul and the other to the Gladiators, Washington has been shutout in the third quarter.  Teams are outscoring the Valor 27-0 in the third, costing the team much-needed points.
While they have never met before, there is already buzz about this budding rivalry.  The Valor, desperate for a win, will want to show it’s better than its record reflects, while the Storm will look to improve to 4-1, its best start in 16 years.

STORM NOTES: The Arena Football League announced Tampa Bay Storm quarterback Randy Hippeard has been named the offensive player of the week, while defensive back Paul Stephens was named the defensive player of the week.
OFFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE WEEK – Hippeard was once again instrumental in engineering the game-winning drive versus the Baltimore Brigade.  With 5.0 seconds left in regulation, he found LaMark Brown in the back of the end zone for the go-ahead score.  Hippeard finished the night having completed 31-of-40 passes (77.5%) for 285 yards, eight touchdowns and no interceptions. This is Hippeard’s second consecutive weekly award and he is the League’s first multi-Player of the Week recipient this season.
DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE WEEK – Stephens who joined the team last week, played a pivotal role in the Storm’s week five victory over the Brigade.  He led all Storm defenders with 6.5 tackles, a pass breakup and he recovered two fumbles.  In the second quarter, Stephens scooped up a Justin Wilson fumble and returned it 46 yards for the score.  Also, with the game tied at 48 in the fourth, Stephens picked up another Wilson fumble, leading to a Storm touchdown. This is Stephens’ first weekly award for the 2017 season.