The Tampa Bay Storm, the AFL’s most storied franchise in league history opens their 2011 campaign on Friday night in “The Graveyard” at the New Orleans Arena as guests of the resurrected New Orleans VooDoo.
A new era for Storm begins on Friday – as Dave Ewart will make formally make his Storm coaching debut following his appointment last month to replace Tim Marcum, who resigned after leading the Storm for 15 seasons, which included three ArenaBowl championships (1995, ‘96, and 2003).
Ewart is no stranger to the Storm as he spent the past seven seasons as the director of player personnel and assistant head coach. This season marks his 16th as a coach in the Arena Football League with stops as head coach with the Florida Bobcats, Texas Terror and the St. Louis Stampede. During his time as assistant coach with the Storm, Ewart filled in as head coach for five games while Tim Marcum was served a league suspension.
The VooDoo is no foreigner to the AFL having played in New Orleans from 2004-2008 before the league suspended the 2009 season. Last season, the VooDoo played as the Bossier-Shreveport Battle Wings and returns to the Big Easy under new head coach Derek Stingley, who will be making his AFL coaching debut. In 2008 Stingley was the defensive coordinator for the VooDoo.
Tampa Bay Storm (0-0) @ New Orleans VooDoo (0-0)
Kickoff:8:00 PM EST
Radio: 1250 AM-WHNZ (play-by-play Jack Harris, color Derek Sharp)
When they say you’ll need a program to know who the players are is certainly a true fact for the 2011 Storm. The 2011 Storm 24-man opening day roster includes 14 players that will be making their Storm debuts, 12 rookies and only eight retuning players from the 2010 squad.
In addition to the 14 new faces, are two that are on the RTF (Refused to Report): De’ Cody Fagg and Billy Farris and five are on injured reserve: Cedrick Fisher, Ken Heatly, Jarrod Holt, Michael Merritt and Frank Murphy and two veterans in Richard Clebert and Mike Potts.
The rookies include: DB Markihe Anderson, DB Kreg Brown, DL Jarriett Buie, K Kyle Chilton, QB Grant Gregory, OL/FB Jorge Guerra, DB Justin Hannah, WR Amarri Jackson, WR Michael Lindsey, C Ryan McDonald, OL Kevin Miller and DB Wondy Pierre-Louis.
The returning eight plus three: On offense, OL Emmanuel Akah, OL Thomas Kaleita and WR Hank Edwards return and on the defensive side DB Deonte Bolden, LB Clifford Dukes, DB Michael Hawthorne, DB Erick McIntosh and LB Eric Ortiz are back. Additionally, WR Huey Whittaker and DL Greg Taplin who each last played for the Storm in 2006 and QB BJ Hall who was with the team during training camp in 2010 return.
The biggest difference in the 2011 squad from those of the past is that under Marcum the Storm were always a veteran laden team – that’s not the case under Ewart. Youth over veterans could be the biggest challenge for the Storm in 2011.
Storm Offense vs. VooDoo Defense
The Storm is led offensively by wide receivers in returning veteran Hank Edwards and former Storm and recent acquisition Huey Whittaker. They totaled 258 receptions for 3,401 yards and 73 touchdowns receiving during the 2010 AFL season.
In the pocket will be former Tulsa Talon quarterback Mike Potts who joined the Storm this off-season. Potts has some pretty big shoes to fill following Brett Dietz desire to hang up the cleats after three seasons.
Defensively Eric Scott is the man that will provide pressure for the VooDoo, he also played for the now defunct Battlewings in 2010 and was second on the team in sacks and led the League in blocked kicks with seven.
VooDoo Offense vs. Storm Defense
Quarterback Danny Wimprine returns after being away from the game for the past two seasons. Wimprine quarterbacked the VooDoo in 2008 and led the team to an 8-8 record while passing for 4,081 yards with 85 touchdowns and 11 interceptions.
PJ Berry comes to the Voodoo after spending last two seasons with the now defunct Bossier-Shreveport Battlewings. Last season with the Battlewings Berry totaled 3,185 total all-purpose yards and 43 touchdowns.
Last year the Storm finished second in the AFL in points allowed in 2010. Linebacker Cliff Dukes leads the Storm defense this season and hopes to follow-up his 2010 season when he was named second team All-Arena as he led the team with nine sacks, good for third in the AFL.
Joining him on the front four are Jarriett Buie and Richard Clebert, two former University of South Florida Bulls and as well returning defensive lineman Greg Taplin.
In the back three all three defensive backs are returning veterans; Deonte Bolden, Michael Hawthorne and Erick McIntosh. Bolden will man the middle and was tops in the AFL in pass breakups per game prior to a season ending knee injury in Week Six. Hawthorne and McIntosh combined for four defensive touchdowns in 2010.
This is the 9th meeting between the two teams and fourth in New Orleans. The Storm leads the all-times series with a 5-3 overall record and is 1-3 in the ‘Graveyard.’
The last meeting in the Graveyard (March 16, 2008), the VooDoo crushed the Storm 76-55. The 76 points allowed are the most surrendered in Storm franchise history. In that game, Hank Edwards set then career single-game highs with 12 catches for 189 yards and VooDoo kicker Jon Ruffin missed four field goals. In the previous four games in New Orleans the VooDoo has outscored the Storm by 33 points (234 to 201). The Storm has the only season sweep in the series, 2007, the only time the home team did not win.
The last game between the two teams was in week 10 (May 9) of the 2008 season with the Storm winning 41-37.
DB Traco Rachal intercepted VooDoo QB Danny Wimprine on the final play of the game to seal the victory as Tampa Bay held New Orleans to a season-low 37 points. Former Storm WR Lawrence Samuels set then League-record 129 consecutive games with a catch with his 11 reception, 111 yard and two touchdown effort. Wimprine completed 23 of 41 passes for 240 yards and three touchdowns with one interception.
Fans can purchase season tickets for the 2011 Tampa Bay Storm season by calling 813.301.6600 or visiting tampabaystorm.com. Season ticket packages start as low as $75.
For more info:Tampa Bay Storm, 2011 Storm Schedule, 2011 Storm Roster
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