CLEVELAND — The Storm, down 21 points early in the fourth quarter, nearly came all the way back to force overtime but fell 41-39 to Cleveland on Saturday.
The Gladiators (4-8) fumbled with less than a minute left in regulation, giving the Storm a chance to come back. Tampa Bay went 46 yards in seven plays, and on fourth and goal from the Cleveland 3-yard line, quarterback Randy Hippeard found receiver Joe Hills for his third touchdown of the game. But Hippeard threw an incompletion on the two-point conversion try.
Tampa Bay (8-3) was down 41-20 early in the fourth, as the offense was stopped three times while Cleveland scored five times on fourth down. Cleveland quarterback Arvell Nelson's 6-yard scramble on fourth and goal made it 21-13 with four seconds left in the first half.
The Storm's comeback try started when Kendrick Ings recovered Mark Lewis' onside kick after Tampa Bay had cut its deficit to 41-26.
Hippeard threw for 256 yards and six scores. Hills and Ings caught nine passes apiece. Hills tied Damian Harrell's league record of 78 consecutive games with a touchdown reception.