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Fourth quarter comeback attempt not enough for Gladiators in final game

Sunday July 28, 2013

CLEVELAND -  Despite outscoring their opponent 19-7 in the fourth quarter, the Cleveland Gladiators (4-14) were unable to overcome a second-half deficit, as they fell to the Utah Blaze (7-11), 48-46, in the final game of the 2013 season Saturday night in Salt Lake City. Thyron Lewis caught four touchdowns for the Gladiators, while Carlese Franklin led the way in receptions and yards, reeling in nine balls for 123 yards. Danny Southwick finished the game at quarterback for the Gladiators after Chris Dieker left with an injury late in the third quarter.

Utah opened the game by scoring on just the second offensive play of the game after Ben Stallings caught a one-yard Tommy Grady pass; a play that was set-up by a 39-yard pass to LaVaughn Macon just 55 seconds into the game. The Gladiators scored back-to-back touchdowns though, ending the first quarter with a 13-6 lead. Lewis caught his first touchdown of the game from 27 yards out with 5:15 left in the opening frame, and Dieker scored a four-yard rushing touchdown with 2:26 left in the first quarter to give the Gladiators their first lead.

Utah would score three touchdowns in the second quarter compared to just one for the Gladiators; a sequence that forced the Gladiators to play from behind for most of the duration of the game. Tied at 20-20 with .4 seconds remaining in the half, the game took a turn following a Gladiators field goal attempt on the final play of the half. Craig Camay had his field goal blocked, and a bouncing ball made its way back to the Gladiators end zone, where Utah's David Hyland recovered for a Blaze touchdown. The scoring play put the Blaze up 27-20 at the half.

The closest the Gladiators would come over the rest of the game was when they tied the score at 27-27 on the opening kickoff of the second half. Utah's onside kick was handled by Phinisee, who strolled into the end zone from 14 yards. Utah receiver Marrio Urrutia caught two touchdowns before the third quarter ended- one from 11 yards and one from 20 yards- which gave the Blaze a 41-27 lead through three quarters.

Lewis found the end zone three times in the fourth quarter, but a Utah kickoff return from Macon- a 54 yard return for a touchdown with 9:35 left in the game- proved to be the difference-maker for the Blaze.

The Gladiators finished the regular season with a 2-2 record over their final four games.

NOTES: Dominick Goodman had four catches, giving him a team-leading 147 receptions on the season; he had 170 catches in 2012... Dieker threw two touchdown passes and two interceptions; his season-ending touchdown-interception ratio is 43-11... Lewis finished the season with seven touchdown catches over his final two games... The Gladiators conclude the two-game season series against the Blaze with a record of 0-2; Utah won 57-40 at Quicken Loans Arena on 4/27/13.