TAMPA - Even though they lost, the Storm walked away winners Saturday night.
Despite falling 48-37 to the lowly Pittsburgh Power (4-13) in front of an AFL season-best crowd of 16,118 at the Forum, the Storm (7-10) are playoff bound - despite a franchise-worst sixth straight defeat.
Thanks to a New Orleans VooDoo loss earlier in the evening, the Storm have their first playoff berth since 2010, the same year they lost ArenaBowl XXXIII.
"I might be the only coach in the history of the AFL to be (ticked) off to make the playoffs," the Storm's Dave Ewart said. "Right now, we're not playoff worthy and that's what I told them. We need to fix a lot of things and the thing is we have a couple of weeks to fix it and we get into (the playoffs), it's 0-0 and who knows (what could happen)."
The Storm got off on the wrong foot Saturday, finding themselves in a 14-0 hole, then held only two leads in a game Ewart called "embarrassing."
"Not disappointing - embarrassing," Ewart said. "It's a tough game to play, that's why you don't see anyone in dresses playing the game. It's a very physical game, no matter what, and you've got to learn, sometimes, on the fly."
Storm quarterback Randy Hippeard went 25-for-45 for 202 yards and four TDs, but was under pressure most of the game.
"(No) protection has been killing us the past two weeks," Ewart said. "There's not many people to pick up and I can't create people. It don't work. I've tried. We have to protect back there."
Power quarterback Shane Austin went 18-for-32 for 249 yards and four touchdowns, and he rushed for two more scores, including a 9-yarder late that secured the win.
Yet, as the Storm limp into the playoffs, Ewart is looking to right the ship during the next two weeks, including giving backup quarterback Shane Boyd a shot next week at Jacksonville (11-6).
"We'll do what we need to do," Ewart said. "We'll look at a bunch of people because I don't want to be there for one (game). That's not what any of us want."