Storm outscores Arizona to win Arena Bowl, 43-29

Published 12:00 am Monday, June 23, 2003

TAMPA, Fla. -- Music blared, confetti dropped from the ceiling and the city of Tampa celebrated another pro football championship Sunday night, saluting the Tampa Bay Storm's 43-29 victory over the Arizona Rattlers in the Arena Bowl.

Reserve quarterback Pat O'Hara threw for two touchdowns and ran for a third as the Storm won its record fifth Arena Football League title.

Tampa became the first city to have the Super Bowl and AFL champions in the same year. The Buccaneers beat Oakland in January to capture the NFL title.

Email newsletter signup

Storm coach Tim Marcum hoisted the championship trophy for a record seventh time. It's his third title with Tampa Bay, which also won under him in 1995 and 1996. The Storm also won championships in 1991 and 1993.

Lawrence Samuels caught three touchdown passes, and the Storm forced five turnovers to frustrate Arizona's offense. The Rattlers entered the game averaging 68.3 points per game in the playoffs.

O'Hara replaced John Kaleo, who left with a back bruise early in the third quarter, and threw TD passes of 9 and 43 yards to Samuels. His 3-yard TD run eliminated any realistic chance for an Arizona comeback, dropping the Rattlers into a 43-22 hole with 10:39 remaining.

Samuels also caught a 33-yard TD pass from Kaleo in the first quarter.

Sherdrick Bonner completed 15 of 31 passes for 164 yards for the Rattlers, but lost three fumbles and was intercepted once.

Arizona's season ended with a championship game loss for the second straight year. Turnovers undermined them a year ago against San Jose and Bonner's mistakes proved too much to overcome this time.

Kelvin Kinney returned one of the Arizona quarterback's fumbles 26 yards for a second-quarter touchdown. Omarr Smith's third-quarter interception set up O'Hara's first TD pass to Samuels, who had five receptions for 109 yards.

The announced crowd of 20,496 was the second largest in Arena Bowl history.

In the days leading up to the game, players and coaches talked about the importance of putting on a good ''show'' for a national television audience likely to include millions drawn by curiosity of the league.

Attendance league-wide rose 15 percent, and AFL officials are looking to expand by as many as six teams over the next three years with an emphasis on increasing the AFL's exposure in markets that also have NFL teams.