Predators rally for 63-62 overtime victory over Storm
Orlando topple Tampa Bay in 56th edition of 'War on I-4'
ORLANDO,Fla. – The Orlando Predators (4-4) rallied for a dramatic 63-62 overtime win over the Tampa Bay Storm (3-4) on Saturday night in the 56th edition of the “War on I-4.”
Orlando was behind by as much as three scores during the game, but the Predators overcame a 21-point fourth quarter deficit to earn an improbable victory that vaulted the team back into first place in the South Division.
Trailing 55-40 with just over a minute remaining in the contest, Tampa Bay QB Jason Boltus was pressured into an errant throw at midfield that was intercepted by Predators linebacker Terence Moore, who rumbled 25 yards down the right sideline for a touchdown to decrease the deficit, 55-47.
Orlando’s defense returned to the field and once again denied the Storm, forcing a 20-yard field goal attempt that was missed by kicker Craig Peterson. The Predators regained possession and quarterback Bernard Morris promptly directed the offense into the red zone before finding wide receiver Brandon Thompkins on a three-yard touchdown pass. Needing a two-point conversion to tie the game, wide receiver Kendal Thompkins hauled in the pass from Morris in the back of the end zone to even the score at the end of regulation, 55-55.
Tampa Bay received possession to start the overtime period and captured a quick score off a 20-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Jason Boltus to wide receiver T.T. Toliver. With both teams being guaranteed at least one possession, the Predators set out on their final drive of the night and methodically worked down-field on an eight-play, 48-yard series. Facing 1st-and-goal just a yard shy of the end zone, quarterback Bernard Morris handed the ball off to full back Michael Simons, who plunged over the goal line for the score.
Rather than risk kicking a point after touchdown that would give possession back to the Storm in a sudden death scenario, the Predators elected to go for two to seal the win. Morris dropped back on the two-point conversion attempt a fired a quick pass over the middle to Brandon Thompkins, who secured the reception to finalize the victory, 63-62.
Morris finished the night hitting on 24-of-43 pass attempts for 271 yards and six touchdowns while adding 86 yards rushing. Kendal Thompkins registered a game-high 14 receptions for 150 yards and three scores, while Brandon Thompkins turned in six catches for 88 yards and three touchdowns of his own. Michael Simons rushed twice for three yards and two scores on the ground.
Defensively, defensive lineman Meshak Williams posted 2.5 tackles, including a forced fumble on a seven-yard sack. Linebacker Terence Moore and defensive back Nick Taylor each delivered interceptions, while defensive back Emanuel Cook led the team with 8.5 total tackles.
Morris converted a crucial fourth-down attempt during the game’s opening drive, completing an 11-yard touchdown pass to Kendal Thompkins to give the Predators an early lead. Jason Boltus tied it moments later, connecting with wide receiver Julius Gregory from six yards out on the next play from scrimmage.
Orlando was unable to capitalize on its next possession, turning the ball over on downs after eight plays. Boltus found T.T. Toliver on a nine-yard touchdown pass five plays into the ensuing drive, giving Tampa Bay a 14-7 lead at the end of the first quarter.
Morris tied the game a series later off an 18-yard completion to Brandon Thompkins, but Tampa Bay managed to build a 27-14 lead, beginning with a 47-yard touchdown reception by wide receiver Emory Sammons. Thompkins lined up to field the ensuing kickoff, but the ball bounced off the crossbars and into the arms of Storm defensive back James Harrell, who returned it 13 yards to the end zone for a score.
The Predators needed just two plays to score following the kickoff, as Morris rolled out to his right before throwing a 24-yard touchdown pass over the top of the defense to Kendal Thompkins. Tampa Bay answered with a 34-yard touchdown reception by wide receiver Kendrick Ings, but Morris countered once again, launching a 28-yard touchdown to a wide-open Brandon Thompkins to make it a one-score game. The Storm would get the final score of the half off a nine-yard touchdown catch by T.T. Toliver to put the Predators in a 41-28 hole at the midway point.
The Storm opened the second half with a 21-yard touchdown pass from Boltus to wide receiver Phillip Barnett to build a 48-28 lead. The Predators turned the ball over on downs after failing to convert on fourth down a series later, but Orlando’s defense promptly answered the call as defensive back Nick Taylor intercepted a pass attempt by Boltus on third down. Four plays later, Michael Simons plowed over the goal line on a hand-off for a two-yard touchdown run.
Tampa Bay pushed its lead to 55-34 off a 29-yard completion from Boltus to Toliver, but the Predators responded on the next play from scrimmage as Kendal Thompkins hauled in a 26-yard touchdown pass to start the 21-point fourth quarter comeback.
The Orlando Predators return to the Amway Center in Week 9 to battle the Portland Thunder on Saturday, May 23 at 7 p.m. The rivalry game will be nationally televised on CBS Sports Network.
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