For the third consecutive week, fourth quarter heroics paved the way for a dramatic victory as the Orlando Predators (3-0) knocked off the Tampa Bay Storm (2-1), 56-52, in the 53rd edition of the “War on I-4.” The matchup lived up to its billing as a clash between bitter division rivals, but it was Orlando who emerged with a win to mark the franchise’s first 3-0 start since the 2005 season.
Orlando headed into the fourth quarter trailing Tampa Bay, 39-28. On the first play of the final frame, WR Kendal Thompkins took the pitch on a reverse and side-stepped defenders on his way to an electric 22-yard touchdown run. Tampa Bay would reestablish its two-score lead a series later, as Storm QB Randy Hippeard connected with WR Amarri Jackson on a 17-yard touchdown completion to give Tampa Bay a 45-34 lead.
The two teams proceeded to trade scores on back-to-back possessions, as QB Jason Boltus hit Khalil Paden with a 17-yard touchdown strike before Hippeard answered with a 45-yard completion to WR Michael Lindsey.
Facing a 52-42 deficit with minutes remaining, Orlando regained possession and Boltus once again connected with Thompkins to inch closer to the lead. Following a completion, Thompkins raced up field towards the right corner of the end zone before diving over the goal line for a 29-yard score.
After recovering Orlando’s onside kick attempt with just 45 seconds remaining on the clock, the Storm needed only to run out the clock to secure the win. But an improbable play gave new life to the Predators, who took full advantage of the opportunity. On the first snap of the ensuing Storm drive, Hippeard attempted to keep the clock rolling with a quarterback sneak, but lost control of the football. DL Mark Robinson would recover the loose ball for Orlando, giving possession back to the Predators with 40 seconds remaining in the game.
QB Jason Boltus would proceed to drive the Predators down the field as time ticked off the clock. With just six seconds remaining in the contest, Boltus gunned a three-yard touchdown pass to WR Greg Carr, who adjusted to the throw to secure the completion and seal the 56-52 victory for the Predators.
The Orlando Predators take an undefeated record on the road in Week 4, as the team travels to take on the New Orleans VooDoo on Thursday, April 3rd. Kickoff from New Orleans is scheduled for 8:30pm EST.