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Gladiators hold on to win last home game of the season

Sunday July 21, 2013

CLEVELAND - In a game that featured 51 combined fourth quarter points, the Cleveland Gladiators (4-13) preserved a lead to hold on for a 65-62 victory over the Orlando Predators (6-11) Saturday night before 8,526 fans at Quicken Loans Arena. Leading the way for the Gladiators, quarterback Chris Dieker wrapped up the team’s home schedule by accounting for eight total touchdowns; six through the air and two on the ground. Gladiators receiver Thyron Lewis had three receiving touchdowns, and receiving Dominick Goodman accounted for three total touchdowns.

Dieker and Orlando quarterback Aaron Garcia- playing in his record 18th AFL season- matched each other touchdown pass for touchdown pass in the first quarter; a frame that ended in a 14-14 tie. Dieker connected with Thyron Lewis from 30 yards and Dominick Goodman from seven yards, while Garcia found T.T. Tolliver from 32 and 35 yards. Tolliver ended the game with five receiving touchdowns for Orlando.

Each team scored twice apiece in the second quarter as well, but a missed extra point by the Gladiators allowed Orlando to take a 28-27 lead into halftime. In the second quarter, Dieker gave the Gladiators their first lead of the game- making the score 20-14- when he bolted into the end zone from four yards out for his first rushing touchdown of the game. Dieker also found Lewis from 47 yards out for a touchdown pass with 2:15 left in the half; a play that pulled the Gladiators to within a point at halftime.

With 10:02 left in the third quarter, Goodman caught a five-yard touchdown pass that put the Gladiators back on top 34-28. After another Tolliver touchdown, Dieker ran the ball in from four yards to take the Gladiators into the fourth quarter with a 42-41 lead.

The Gladiators caught the Predators off-guard in a wild fourth quarter after a 30-yard touchdown pass from Dieker to Lewis with 5:22 left in the game. Leading 55-48, the Gladiators attempted an onside kick, and recovered the ball. On the ensuing drive, kicker Craig Camay converted a 35-yard field goal to stretch the Gladiators lead to 58-48; the Gladiators first of two 10-point leads in the game.

Orlando would score late in the game to pull to within three points, but a final touchdown from Tolliver wasn’t enough to overcome the Gladiators, who held on for the win.

The Gladiators conclude the season Saturday in Utah against the Blaze. Kickoff is at 9:00 PM Eastern.

NOTES: Dieker tied a season-best with eight total touchdowns in the game… Goodman’s nine catches in the game give him 143 catches on the season, and he also has at least one touchdown in 12 straight games… Thyron Lewis overtook Goodman for the team’s lead in receiving yards with 1,319 on the season… Defensive back Marrio Norman led the Gladiators with 10 pass breakups on the season entering the game, and had one pass breakup in the game… The Gladiators earned a split of the two-game season series with the victory; Orlando took the first meeting by a 62-55 score on June 15 in Orlando.