TAMPA — The Storm clinched a playoff spot in dramatic fashion Saturday night, stopping a two-point conversion in the closing seconds to defeat Washington 58-57 for its sixth straight win in front of an announced 9,856 at Amalie Arena.
Tampa Bay (7-1) trailed by 10 in the third quarter but tied the score on a safety with 2:20 left when Washington quarterback Sean Brackett fell in the end zone and was called for intentional grounding.
Rather than milk the clock — a possibility because Washington had used two timeouts — the Storm went for the end zone on the next play. Joe Hills caught Randy Hippeard's seventh touchdown pass of the night, a 12-yarder that made it 58-51 with 1 minute left.
The Valor worked the field and scored with nine seconds left on Sean Brackett's seventh touchdown pass of the game and went for the win, but Paul Stephens and LaRoche Jackson had the pass well defended.
The Storm won its sixth straight to claim one of four playoff spots in the five-team Arena League.
Washington (1-7) lost its seventh straight despite scoring more touchdowns than the Storm. The Valor had nine but failed on four two-point conversions along with missed kicks. Kicker Mark Lewis was 8-for-8 for Tampa Bay.
Hills (13 catches, 124 yards) and Kendrick Ings (nine catches, 114 yards) caught three scoring passes apiece for the Storm. Hippeard was 29-of-42 for 283 yards and the seven scores.
The teams scored on each of their first three possessions before Tampa Bay forced a fumble, only to fail to score on its next two drives.
Spoto High graduate and former Storm player Dominic Addison turned Hills' bobbled catch into a 43-yard interception return for a touchdown late in the first half for a 32-21 Washington lead. Hills answered with 10 seconds left in the half to pull the Storm within 32-28.
Hippeard fumbled early in the third quarter, which led to a Washington touchdown and a 10-point lead, but the safety turned things around.
Another former Storm defensive back and Tampa Bay product, James Harrell, was ejected for targeting in the third quarter.
Tampa Bay, in second place in the league, is at first-place Philadelphia (8-0) on Saturday.