It took some unreal twists to get there, but the Tampa Bay Storm took firm hold of a playoff spot with a 62-56 overtime win in Iowa Saturday night. After falling to 3-6 the Storm have won four straight.
Randy Hippeard's 11-yard TD run after a critical stop by the Tampa Bay defense ended the contest after Iowa had tied the game with a dramatic rally.
Having things seemingly in hand with a two-touchdown lead in the final minute, the Storm allowed a touchdown with :28 left followed by an Iowa recovery of an onside kick. With no time left in regulation Iowa's Marco Thomas caught a TD pass from J.J. Raterink.
Having missed the previous extra point Iowa needed to go for two to force overtime and receiver Darius Reynolds came in to run the Wildcat formation. The Storm stuffed him, but he reversed field, scrambled back to the 15-yard line and heaved a desperation pass that Thomas caught.
Stunned, the Storm -- who had been a perfect 5-for-5 on offense in the second half -- turned it over when Randy Hippeard was picked in the end zone by Mervin Brookins. At that point it became a sudden death situation, but Iowa could only advance the ball two yards giving the Storm great field position. Hippeard's winning run soon followed.
Hippeard threw for six touchdowns and ran for three more. Hills caught six passes for 77 yards and three scores, T.T. Toliver went 8-94 for two and Amarri Jackson pitched in with 91 yards on eight catches.
The Storm now sit in the fourth and final playoff spot in the American Conference, one game ahead of both Philadelphia and Iowa -- and critically, with the tiebreaker over both teams, having defeated the Soul last week. Philadelphia was stunned Saturday by Pittsburgh on a last-play field goal.
As enormous as the Wild Card implications were (all three teams entered the night 6-6), the Storm can still win the South Division too. Orlando is a game ahead but comes to the Tampa Bay Times Forum next Saturday. There are still five games left in the regular season.
Tampa Bay was up 56-42 after Joe Hills' third touchdown catch, followed by what looked to be the game-turning play, an Iowa fumble that led to Hippeard's 3-yard scoring run.
Iowa led 28-21 at halftime but the Storm started perfectly, with a T.T. Toliver 30-yard TD catch on the first play followed by a Storm defense stop. Hippeard hit Hills with a 17-yard TD to give the Storm a 35-28 lead.