|March 23||vs Jacksonville||
|March 30||vs Cleveland||W 69-37|
|April 6||AT Utah||
|April 12||vs San Antonio||L 36-52|
|April 20||AT Orlando||
|April 27||AT Spokane||W 70-62|
|May 4||vs New Orleans||
|May 10||AT San Jose||L 34-64|
|May 18||AT Pittsburgh||
|May 25||vs Philadelphia||L 55-73|
|June 1||AT Iowa||
|June 8||vs Orlando||L 48-55|
|June 15||AT New Orleans||
|June 22||vs Chicago||L 49-50|
|July 6||vs Spokane||
|July 13||AT San Antonio||L 42-68|
|July 20||vs Pittsburgh||
|July 27||AT Jacksonville||7:00pm|
Jacksonville ran a trick play for a two-point conversion to take the lead with eight seconds left, and beat the Tampa Bay Storm 69-62 in the American Conference semifinals Saturday.
Coming in as the fourth seed and on a seven-game losing streak, the Storm barely avoided knocking off Jacksonville, which instead advances to host fellow 13-6 team Philadelphia for the right to head to the Arena Bowl.
Having scored a touchdown to pull within a point, the Sharks lined up for an apparent tying kick. But holder Jeff Hughley took the snap and plowed forward to put his team on top for the first time all night.
Still with time to attempt a game-winning field goal the Storm instead got sacked for the first time all night, with Derrick Summers recovering Shane Boyd's fumble for a six-yard score and misleading final margin.
Tampa Bay looked primed to pull off the shocking upset when it jumped ahead by 21 points early in the second half. Jacksonville's comeback win was the largest in an Arena playoff game since 2000. R.J. Roberts 4-yard fumble return of a fumble by quarterback Bernard Morris had the Storm ahead 34-13.
But Jacksonville caught numerous pieces of fortune, and took some risks that almost all paid off. The big one was a line-drive kickoff that nailed Storm lineman Nevin McCaskill and was recovered by kicker Marco Capozolli.
Then again the Sharks had a near Steve Bartman moment: a fan taking a a would-be tying touchdown in the game's closing minutes, leading to a near stop that only failed to happen because of a dramatic 35-yard TD run by Bernard Morris.
Tampa Bay used three Sharks turnovers to jump ahead by 21. Even though the Sharks got the big break on the kickoff, and a sequence of questionable official calls (and non-calls) that allowed Jacksonville to tie the game at 55, Tampa Bay still had a great shot at victory.
After Jacksonville had completed the comeback to tie it 48-48 with 9:10 remaining, the Storm clinically drove the field and went back up on Boyd's 1-yard run with 4:51 left. Then Tampa Bay had the Sharks pinned on a 3rd-and-20, when Morris took off for a 35-yard score. On the play Mike Lindsey, in at linebacker due to an injury to Donald Smith, whiffed on a tackle that would have led to a 4th-and-15. And a clear hold against Storm DB Jason Chery was ignored.
Still the Storm managed to retake the lead 62-55 with less than a minute to play on an 8-yard pass from Boyd to Joe Hills. But the Sharks worked the clock and made it 62-61 on a Markee White touchdown with :08 remaining.
Boyd was tremendous with seven touchdown passes, three to Hills, and 282 yards through the air. Tampa Bay's only two plays of the third quarter were long TD passes, a 45-yarder to Mike Lindsey and a 43-yard bomb to Hills, with the Jacksonville home crowd making a racous racket.
Tampa Bay ended on an eight game losing streak and with a 7-12 record. Jacksonville will host Philadelphia in the conference finals next week. Philadelphia edged Orlando 59-55 on Saturday.
A couple of other agonizing sequences, though none more so than the kickoff that Jacksonville banged off McCaskill, would likely have clinched a Storm upset if they'd not taken place. The Sharks' big defensive stop which led to the first tying score came on a fourth-down play where Hills looked interfered with, and the Storm were called for offsides when originally Jacksonville was flagged for the seemingly obvious infraction.
And prior to that, Jean Fanor had a fumble recovery for a touchdown that got called back for an iffy offsides call.
One last, eventually critical call went against the Storm and it again involved a tricky two-point conversion. Hughley was stuffed at the 5 and out of desperation shoveled to the ball to the kicker Capozolli, who barely coralled it but was called out of bounds shy of the goal line. Jacksonville challenged and the call was overturned -- moving it from a two-score game to a seven-point contest.
Tyrece Gaines scored a 32-yard touchdown on his only catch of the night in his Storm debut. Hills seven catches for 95 yards, Lindsey adding five for 77 with two touchdowns. Fullback Terrance Royal scored on a fullback screen.
Tampa Bay took all the momentum into halftime. After the Storm's only offensive slipup of the first half, a Boyd interception by Tracy Belton, Tampa Bay got it back in the final minute wiht a clutch pick off the boards by Donald Smith. A long pass to Chery set up Boyd's TD pass to Hills with only three seconds left and it was 27-13 at the break.
The Storm have never won in Jacksonville and is 1-8 all-time against the franchise.
The Storm will once again turn to Shane Boyd at quarterback when they take on Jacksonville Saturday night.
Boyd got his first start in a Storm uniform last week and did enough to convince the coaching staff he's the better choice.
Randy Hippeard had started four games in a row after Adrian McPherson went down to injury. Hippeard did well enough in his first two games but then struggled at San Antonio, and was pretty bad in a shock home defeat to Pittsburgh prompting Boyd to get the opportunity.
Tampa Bay is the No. 4 seed in the American Conference and if it can knock off top-seed Jacksonville will travel to play the Philadelphia-Orlando winner in the Conference championship game.
Philadelphia and Orlando also start at 7 Saturday.
A day before their first-round playoff matchup with Jacksonville the Tampa Bay Storm announced the signing of a wide receiver, who may have an impact on the game.
Tampa Bay signed Tyrece Gaines, who spent the past three seasons at Oregon but only played one down due to various academic issues. Gaines was a highly sought-after player after leading Butler Community College (Kansas) to the Junior College national championship in 2008.
"Tyrece is a physical receiver and will benefit our offense," said team VP of Football Operations Jeff Gooch.
Gaines (6-3, 220) is expected to be used on Saturday as receiver Justil Hilton was signed by the Tennessee Titans this week. Tampa Bay does regain the services of receivers Mike Lindsey and Chris Davis, both of whom were inactive for the regular season finale.
In other roster announcements Friday the Storm placed center Maurice Robinson on injured reserve with a leg injury. Bruce McCaleb will move up from fullback to center.
The Storm kick off in Jacksonville at 7:20 p.m. Coverage starts at 7 on sister station 1250 WHNZ with Jack Harris and Darek Sharp on the play-by-play.