Valor Not Victorious, Glads Defend The Land
CLEVELAND - Dropping their second game of the season, the Washington Valor (1-2) struggled to come out ahead at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio. The Gladiators (1-3) picked up their first win in front of 9,223 on Friday night, a final score of 48-34.
Cleveland jumped on the board rather quick when wide receiver Quentin Sims scored on a run just moments into the game taking a 7-0 lead. Washington's first drive came to a halt when a 4th and 20 pass by quarterback Erik Meyer was picked off by defensive back Fred Obi. The following Cleveland drive was stopped short too, Valor defensive lineman Brandon Sesay stripped Gladiators QB Arvell Nelson of the ball, and WR TT Toliver was in the end zone celebrating with his first touchdown before the end of the quarter. Tied up 7-7.
Nelson started off the 2nd with a 5-yard scramble score but Washington answered back, this was Roger Jackson's first TD for Washington and also Erik Meyer's 300th career passing touchdown, moving him to 25th on the all-time AFL list. Tied up again, 14-14. On the next drive Arvell Nelson hit WR Brandon Thompkins for an eight-yard TD, Cleveland back on top 21-14, this extended Thompkins' streak of consecutive games with a touchdown to 33, second most in the AFL.
The Gladiators played it risky with an onside kick attempt, but the Valor recovered with good field position and wide receiver TT Toliver soon evened it up with a rushing score, 21-21. Cleveland coughed up the ball with :44 left in the half, this gave Meyer a chance to connect with WR Greg Carr for a touchdown but the kick was no good, the Valor had their first lead of the game going into the 3rd, 27-21.
More Second Half Struggles
Meyer was intercepted on the first drive of the 3rd, Cleveland's Terry Johnson came up big with his first career interception. This set the table for something pretty spectacular, a 43-yard quarterback touchdown run, the longest run in nearly two years and longest by a QB since 2011. The extra point was no good and the game was knotted back up at 27-27. The Gladiators forced their first turnover of the second half and turned that into a short drive followed by a one-yard score by offensive lineman Phillipkeith Manley. Cleveland's defense continued to show up, with less than two minutes left in the 3rd the Valor went 4th and out again. Nelson hit WR Sims with a shovel pass, and Washington was trailing 41-27.
With the the 3rd in the books, Cleveland ended a streak of allowing a score in 51 consecutive quarters, blanking the Valor 20-0, Washington's second half struggles continue. The Valor lost their final time out in the 4th on a challenge, WR Greg Carr dropped a pass in the end zone, a would be TD, although the next play QB Erik Meyer and Carr connected for their second score of the game, Washington still trailed 41-34.
On the next drive, a 4th and 15 for Cleveland turned into a massive connection between Arvell Nelson and WR Collin Taylor, a 39-yard TD pass extending the Gladiators lead 48-34. Is Nelson good under pressure? That looks to be the case. Cleveland forced their third turnover of the half with 1:40 left in the game. The Valor, out of timeouts, had to watch the clock run down and consequently hand the Gladiators their first win of the season.
“At the end of the day, it’s a 60-minute game. You’ve got to play four quarters. We’re still that team that’s not coming out on offense and finishing the game right now. We have to get better at finishing offensively in the second half," Valor Head Coach Dean Cokinos said. “We turned the ball over in the second half. It’s really hard to win in arena football when you turn the ball over like that.”
Next up Washington takes their second bye week before they look to rebound against the Tampa Bay Storm at Verizon Center. You can catch the game on CBS Sports Network at 7:00 p.m. on Saturday,