WHITES CREEK, Tenn.- The Nashville Storm’s 2016 season has been a rollercoaster ride. This past Saturday, the ride was extremely rainy but they managed to hold off a determined Georgia Crush team 6-2 to move on to their second consecutive Gridiron Developmental Football League championship game.
The victory gave the Storm their second consecutive Xtreme Conference championship and was a team record 22nd straight victory. The game was a microcosm of the season. A torrential downpour before the game started made conditions extremely difficult. On the opening kickoff, Storm defensive back Chris Perkins broke free for what looked like a sure touchdown but fumbled.
Like all season, the Storm defense took over and made it tough for the Crush the entire game. The Storm offense moved the ball to the red zone on five different occasions. After a scoreless first half, defensive back Randall Smith stepped in front of a pass for an interception. He returned it deep inside Crush territory. The drive stalled and Storm kicker Tim Brecht tried a 27-yard field goal that was tipped at the line of scrimmage.
At the beginning of the fourth quarter, Storm quarterback Jason Hankins hit wide receiver Jeremie Whittaker on a 52 yard pass and catch to the Crush three-yard line. On the next play, Storm leading rusher Keon Bohannon fumbled. The defense once again stopped the Crush, but a roughing the punter penalty nullified them getting the ball in good field position.
After that, Perkins almost redeemed himself when he stepped in front of a third down pass attempt but it slipped through his hands. But Perkins, who scored twice last week, got another chance on the next play. He took the ensuing punt 56 yards for a touchdown. Key blocks were made by Mychal Hendricks and Fred Sparkman. The extra point attempt was picked off and ran back for a two-point conversion.
“After he (Perkins) fumbled the kickoff, I told him he would win the game for us,” said Hendricks. “I kept thinking it would be either Bay Bay (Smith) or him. Our defense rose to the occasion. It was ugly but we will take it. The Crush played us tough. They are a great team.”
For the second consecutive year, the Storm will have to defeat the host team for the championship. Last season they defeated the Crescent City Kings 29-22 in New Orleans. This time they will travel to Tulsa to take on the Oklahoma Thunder.
“I was upset after fumbling the kickoff,” said Perkins. “I appreciate my teammates and coaches sticking with me. I only had to make one move to get in the end zone. Everybody was blocking their tails off. We will have our hands full for the championship game. We have dealt with adversity all year. We thought we were going to meet the Thunder last year. This will be our toughest game by far all season.”