On the strength of a T.T. Toliver touchdown catch with three seconds to play, the Tampa Bay Storm (1-7) sent the Arizona Rattlers (6-3) to a 63-56 defeat in front of 8,298 fans at the Amalie Arena Sunday.
Arizona quarterback Nick Davila (22-36, 341 yards, 7 TDs, INT) was harassed by Tampa’s defense most of the afternoon; being sacked twice and the victim of untimely drops and mental errors by his teammates.
The Rattlers controlled most of the first half, jumping out to a 35-21 lead and were driving late in the second quarter with the opportunity to put Tampa away. Davila was picked off by cornerback Cortez Stubbs near the goal line to give the Storm new life. Arizona’s defense would deny a score on the ensuing drive when Storm quarterback Jason Boltus fumbled a snap and defensive lineman Cliff Dukes made the recovery to preserve the Rattlers’ halftime lead.
The Storm rebounded in the fourth quarter and forced back-to-back turnovers on downs and turned them into touchdowns. Tampa would outscore Arizona 28-8 in the final frame to send the Rattlers to their third straight road defeat and third loss in four games.
Boltus (24-39, 358 yards, 8 TDs) shrugged off strong pressure from the Rattlers’ front and an injury scare in the first half to lead the Storm to their first win of the season. Toliver, the league’s oldest player at 39, led all receivers with nine catches for 182 yards and 2 TDs.
Rattlers’ wideouts Rod Windsor and Chase Deadder gave the Tampa defense fits; combining for 235 receiving yards and seven touchdowns in a losing effort.
Arizona will try to change its fortunes on the road as they travel to Cleveland to face the Gladiators on June 3.