ATLANTA- The Georgia Force (7-5) welcomed the Tampa Bay Storm (4-7) to the Arena at the Gwinnett Center for a Southern division matchup Saturday Night. With both teams needing a victory to keep their playoff hopes alive, Force receiver Maurice Purify had himself a record breaking night, snagging eight balls for 120 yards and five touchdowns in route to a 60-49 victory over the Storm.
With heavy divisional implications on the line, both teams used the opening quarter to develop their offensive rhythm, failing to convert on each of their respective drives. Despite the early four-and-out, quarterback Brett Elliott opened up the next drive with a 30-yard touchdown strike to a layout Larry Shipp at the goal line. The result of the play gave the Force an early 7-0 lead, but the Storm answered back with a 43-yard field goal from Kyle Chilton.
Despite the early quarter struggles, the second quarter did not resemble the first. With the ball early in the second quarter, Elliott found AFL leading touchdown receiver, Purify on a 9-yard seam route for the touchdown. The Force failed to convert on the extra point and made it a ten-point lead, but the Storm quarterback Brian Zbydniewski found an open Amarri Jackson for a 7-yard touchdown to bring the score to 13-10. The Force then turned a series of fortunate bounces into 12-unanswered points. The first came with a short 2-yard touchdown strike from Elliott to Michael Johnson. Then on the ensuing kickoff, AFL kick returner leader Michael Lindsey had trouble securing the kickoff, he finally controlled it and came out of the end zone but a heap of defenders pushed him back into the end zone; which resulted in a safety. The Force ended the half with a 26-yard field goal, giving them a 25-10 halftime lead.
After an unproductive first half, the Storm came out firing on a seven-play 30-yard touchdown drive, resulting in an easy 3-yard score from Zbydniewski to Huey Whittaker. However, the Force did not need much time to find the end zone as Elliott found Purify in stride for a 35-yard touchdown, which gave them a 32-17 lead. The Storm would answer on the next play from scrimmage as nicely tossed spiral from Zbydniewski found Hank Edwards in the back of the end zone for a 47-yard touchdown to bring them within nine points, 32-23.
On the next drive, wide receiver Purify made Georgia Force rookie history, as his 13-yard touchdown reception, made him the single-season rookie record holder with 34 touchdown receptions in a season. Storm quarterback Zbydniewski answered when he found an open Whittaker for a 6-yard touchdown, narrowing the margin to 39-29 at the end of third quarter.
With the rookie record in hand, Purify opened up the fourth quarter with a 14-yard touchdown reception from Elliott. The Force defense kept the Storm at bay on consecutive downs and got the ball back, but only to see Elliott throw an interception to Michael Hawthorne; which he returned for a 21-yard score and brought the Storm to within ten, 46-36. The Force delivered the knockout punch when Elliott found Purify for a 6-yard touchdown reception and extended the lead to 53-36. The Storm tried to answer back, but each touchdown was answered by a Force touchdown that ultimately resulted in a 60-49 final.
The Force were lead by Elliott who finished the game 22 of 32 for 248 yards and seven touchdowns; while C.J. Johnson added 186 all-purpose yards.