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After seven losses on the trot the Tampa Bay Storm (1-7, 0-4) finally recorded their first victory of the season against the Arizona Rattlers (6-3, 4-0). The 63-56 scoreline came down to the final minute when T.T. Toliver scored with a game winning touchdown with just three seconds left of play. It was dramatic stuff.
“I just go out there everyday and try to play my hardest,” Toliver said. “We came out today and executed our game plan. I’m excited for everybody.”
This was the Storm’s 18th meeting with Arizona, and they now lead the match up 11-7.
8,298 fans saw the Rattlers lead by 13 points going into the fourth quarter, but the Storm scored 21 unanswered points to take the victory.
Wide receivers Rod Windsor and Chase Deadder made up the bulk of the Rattlers offense, combining for 235 yards receiving and seven touchdowns. Quarterback Nick Davila had a good night statistically, completing 22 of 36 passes for 341 yards and seven touchdowns. He did, however, throw one interception, and was sacked twice.
On the other side of the ball, defensive back Keiron Jones led the Rattlers defense with 7.5 tackles and one pass breakup, in only his second game. Defensive backs KJ Morton and Al Phillips each broke up two passes as well.
The first quarter was a see-saw battle, with each team scoring twice. The Rattlers scored with 36-yard and 37-yard touchdown passes respectively from Davila, the first to wide receiver Rod Windsor, the second to wide receiver / linebacker Chase Deadder. The Storm responded to each score with a one-yard run from quarterback Jason Boltus, and a 25-yard touchdown pass from Boltus to wide receiver Gerald Young. The quarter ended 14-all.
The Rattlers scored first in the second, with a seven-yard touchdown pass from Davila to Deadder. The Storm responded with Young returning the ensuing kickoff 56-yards for the score.
Arizona countered with a 7-yard touchdown pass from Davila to Deadder, then after a Tampa Bay four-and-out, the Rattlers scored again on a 2-yard rush by fullback Mykel Benson. The Storm would score one more time before the half with a four-yard rush by backup quarterback Adam Kennedy.
The half ended with a pair of turnovers, the first, an interception thrown by Davila to defensive back Cortez Stubbs, the second, a botched snap by Bolt us, recovered by defensive end Cliff Dukes. The Rattlers led 35-28 at halftime.
The third quarter began with a 26-yard touchdown pass from Boltus to wide receiver Phillip Barnett to tie the game. The Rattlers answered with a 35-yard touchdown pass from Davila to Deadder. After Arizona forced another four-and-out on the Storm, the Rattlers scored again with a six-yard touchdown pass from Davila to Windsor. The Rattlers led 48-35 after three.
The Storm began the fourth quarter scoring 21-straight points, with three touchdown passes from Boltus, two to Barnett, the third to wide receiver T.T. Tolliver.
The Rattlers would tie the game with 21 seconds left on the clock with a 21-yard touchdown pass from Davila to Windsor, but the Storm would respond with a quick 28-yard touchdown pass from Boltus to Toliver, leaving three seconds left on the clock.
Davila threw one last pass attempt to wide receiver Joe Matthews, but the ball would sail wide out of bounds with no time left on the clock and the Storm had their first victory of the season.
“We worked on a lot of stuff this week to be able to execute in a tight pressured game,” said Storm head coach Lawrence Samuels. “The guys came through. The guys finished today.”
The Storm will hit the road looking for its second win of the season this Friday versus Portland Steel (0-8, 0-5) at the Moda Center.
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