Predators win fifth game in a row, look to use momentum in playoffs


Bryce Brimhall / Valencia Voice

Randy Hippeard threw for 255 yards and 6 touchdowns.

Larry Brackins made four receptions for 42 yards and three touchdowns while running in one more to help the Orlando Predators defeat the Tampa Bay Storm 59-40 at their home in the Amway Center.

The meeting marked the 58th time the South Division rivals have met all-time, with the Predators winning all three match-ups this season.

“When you have a small roster in Arena Football, you just can’t take it easy. With 21 guys on the roster, I can’t just flip 21 more guys in there, that’s not what we can do.” said head coach Rob Keefe about taking this game seriously, while still watching after his players health. “We did not want to lose any players and if anyone had a ding, bump, or bruise, we took them out.”

With the win, the Predators improve to 12-6 to finish out the regular season at the top of their division.

The Predators clinched the South Division title last week with their win over the Jacksonville Sharks and are heading into the playoffs but still treated this week’s game with as much respect as possible.

“When you win five in a row, it gives you confidence. What we can’t do is be too cocky, we have to be humble, we have to be hungry.” said Keefe about the momentum moving into next week’s game. “We are aware that Jacksonville is a good team, we know they are coming after us. If they weren’t prepared before, they definitely are now.”

Orlando set the tone of the game early with an interception by Emanuel Cook in the endzone on Tampa’s first drive of the game that was then turned into a score to bring Orlando up 7-0.

Further pressure on Storm quarterback Jason Boltus led to a tipped pass that was recovered and brought back for another score setting the Predators up with a 14-0 lead.

The second quarter would then see 8 touchdowns including an extra point attempt that was blocked by Arness Ikner then picked up by Austin Brown and returned for a safety to bring the Predators up 32-27 going into the locker room.

After trading touchdowns, the Predators score at the end of the third, then again at the beginning of the fourth quarter to ensure their lead.

The game did see the exit of veteran kicker Mark Lewis who was taken out of the game due to an apparent injury and was replaced by Larry Brackins who would make the rest of the place-kicks until the end of the game. The team denied a comment on the injury but said he should be back in action for next week’s game.

Starting quarterback Randy Hippeard finished the night completing 23 of 30 passes for 255 yards and six touchdowns. Hippeard leads the league in pass completion with a 73.9 percent average.

“He’s one heck of a quarterback. He’s leading the league in efficiency. I’m glad he’s smart with the football and that’s what we need going into the playoffs” said Keefe about his starting guy under center.

The Predators go into the playoffs on a five-game win streak and look to go after their third ArenaBowl title with the first round of playoffs against another division rival, the Jacksonville Sharks on Saturday, August 15, at the Amway Center.