Consistency is something the Force have been trying to find this season. They knew if they wanted to make another run in the playoffs, they would have to get on a winning streak and take first place in their division from the Tampa Bay Storm, the opponent the Force faced on Saturday night at the Gwinnett Arena.
It was not an easy game by any means, but the Force played on of their best game at home this season with a 44-41 win over the Tampa Bay and are now tied with the Storm for the American Conference South Division lead.
Tampa Bay got the scoring started on its opening drive when Stephen Wasil threw a 13-yard touchdown pass to Pret Rodriguez to take the 7-0 lead. But the Force would strike back on the ensuing drive when they would go on a 9-play 44-yard drive which ended with a Mykell Benson 3-yard touchdown run to tie the game at seven.
The Force would get the ball back seconds later when Wasil threw an interception to Jeremy Grier. That would lead to a Carlos Martinez 19-yard field goal to give the Force the 10-7 lead to end the first quarter.
The second quarter started with a missed field goal by the Storm and the Force capitalized with a Kevin Eakin 13-yard touchdown pass to Jake Allen to increase the Force lead to 10. Tampa bounced back on their next series when Wasil threw an 11-yard touchdown pass to Pret Roriguez to cut the Force lead to three. But the Force increased the lead back to 10 before halftime when Eakin threw a 27-yard touchdown pass to Larry Shipp. Shipp, who was named Playmaker of the Game, had a rushing touchdown and another receiving touchdown to go along with his six catches and 65 receiving yards.
The third quarter started with the Force increasing their lead to 13 when Carlos Martinez nailed a 31-yard field goal. Tampa was able to cut the lead to seven when Wasil threw a 19-yard touchdown pass to Amarri Jackson.
The Storm scored 21 points in the fourth quarter thanks to three more touchdown passes from Wasil. But the Force score 17 points with the help of Shipp, Martinez and Eakin, and they were able to recover two Storm onside kicks to protect the lead.
Looking at the score, it didn’t look like a defensive battle, but both offenses had trouble getting yards. The Storm gained 256 yards of offense which is better than the Force as they gained 188 yards.
Before the game, Force head coach Dean Cokinos wanted to make adjustments to the defense with the addition of Cosmo Dematteo who is the new defensive coordinator. The move seemed to work because the Force had one sack and two interceptions against a team that is ranked second in the American Conference in points scored.
The offense for the Force was led by Eakin, who finished 19-of-30 with 178 yards and three touchdowns. Eakin was starting in place of R.J. Archer because Archer was in Detroit taking part in the Detroit Lions minicamp. So Eakin moved up the depth chart and the Force also signed Brett Elliott who was the starting quarterback for the Force last year.
The Force will be back on the road the next two weeks to take on the Milwaukee Mustangs and the Kansas City Command. They will be back at the Gwinnett Arena on June 2 to face the New Orleans Voodoo.