Former USF wide receiver Clif Dell may not have the upper-hand on some of his former teammates who currently reside in the National Football League. However, Dell now has the upper-finger on all of his former teammates after earning his second professional football championship ring.
Dell and his current team, the Tampa Bay Storm, defeated the Arizona Rattlers 43-29 in ArenaBowl XVII at the St. Pete Times Forum on Sunday in front of a sell-out crowd of 20,496, the second largest crowd in ArenaBowl history.
The victory not only gives the Bay area a sweep in professional football titles in 2003 after the hometown Buccaneers won their first title in January, but it gives Dell his second championship ring, which is one more than former Bulls Kenyatta Jones, Scott McCready and Ryan Benjamin.
Dell, who recorded the first reception in USF history, won his first championship as a member of the cross-town rivals of the “War on I-4,” the Orlando Predators, who put a 62-31 thumping on the Storm in ArenaBowl XII at the once-labeled Ice Palace. Although Dell played a bigger part with the Predators in that victory, his contributions Sunday were equally important as Tampa Bay won its fifth AFL title.
With the Storm trailing 10-6 late in the first quarter, Dell caught a 30-yard pass from quarterback John Kaleo with a defender draped all over him to give Tampa Bay the ball at the 3-yard line. Kaleo missed a streaking Dell down the middle a few plays earlier that would have been an easy score.
Two plays later, running back Basil Proctor would punch it into the end zone to give the Storm a 12-10 lead. However, Dell wasn’t finished on the drive as Tampa Bay opted to go for the two-point conversion.
Dell took an end-around handoff from Kaleo and ran towards the sideline with a swarm of Arizona defenders closing in. Just before he met the wall, Dell fired a quick pass to the back of the end zone that landed in former Eagles wide receiver Freddie Solomon’s hands, giving Tampa Bay a 14-10 lead.
The Storm would never relinquish the lead after that point.
Dell also played a pivotal role on special teams as the holder on both extra point and field goal attempts, solidifying his presence in a sport that requires its players to play on both sides of the ball. Also, special teams provided Dell his loudest applause from fans.
After Storm kicker Kenny Stucker botched his first two extra-point attempts, he managed to kick a 23-yard field goal as the first half expired, prompting arguably the loudest cheers in the first half.
Only Storm fans would understand the need for applause. However, the background in a nutshell is Stucker was the sixth kicker used by the team this season alone, and not one kicker lost their job due to injury.
Dell would add his second and final reception on Tampa Bay’s opening possession of the second half, a 9-yard grab from Kaleo. However, David White later fumbled on the 2-yard line to keep the score at 30-22.
The Storm would hold the Rattlers to one touchdown during the final two quarters, with the defense forcing five turnovers in the game. That played a huge part after Kaleo went down with a back injury early in the second half.
Storm receiver/linebacker Lawrence Samuels caught five passes for 109 yards and three touchdowns, recorded one tackle and added a fumble recovery to earn both MVP and Ironman of the game honors, the first time one player has earned both awards in a league championship game. Defensive specialist Omarr Smith, who finished second in AFL Defensive Player of the Year voting, recorded one interception and forced a game-clinching fumble at the goal line with just more than a minute to play.