Second half rally keeps Gladiators unbeaten
Sunday March 30, 2014
NEW ORLEANS - For the second game in a row, the Cleveland Gladiators (2-0) overcame a double-digit deficit and spoiled the home opener of the New Orleans Voodoo (0-2) with a 37-26 win at the Smoothie King Center. QB Shane Austin replaced QB Chris Dieker in the second half and threw for three touchdowns and ran for two more. WR Dominick Goodman had two receiving touchdowns, while WR Thyron Lewis hauled in one touchdown through the air for the Gladiators. Cleveland’s defense forced six turnovers on the evening.
In the first quarter, DB Marrio Norman intercepted QB Ryan Perrilloux in the Voodoo’s opening drive. However, the Gladiators were unable to put any points on the board and turned it over on downs in their first possession of the game. New Orleans received the ball in good field position and capped off a six-play drive with a two-yard rushing touchdown by Perrilloux that put the Voodoo ahead 7-0 at the 4:31 mark. Cleveland looked to respond after a 23-yard run by Dieker and an 11-yard reception by Thyron Lewis that put the Gladiators on the Voodoo’s 4-yard line. On first and goal, Dieker was picked off by LB Alvin Ray Jackson and the Gladiators were held scoreless in a single period for the first time this season.
New Orleans began the second quarter with Perrilloux’s quick strike to WR L.J. Castile for the 13-0 lead. After a failed extra point attempt by the Voodoo, the Gladiators drove down the field on nine plays in 5:49 to get near the goal line. But for the second possession in a row, the Gladiators were unable to capitalize near the end zone, giving the ball back to the Voodoo after turnover on downs. New Orleans took advantage by adding on another score. Cleveland failed to convert another goal line possession after Dieker’s second interception of the evening. K Aaron Pettrey’s 46-yard field goal on the final play of the half gave the Gladiators their only points, as they trailed 20-3 at halftime.
The Gladiators finally got into the end zone after QB Shane Austin entered the game and sneaked over the goal line with 7:20 left in the third quarter. Following their touchdown, Pettrey forced a fumble on the kickoff. Cleveland recovered the ball and capitalized on the turnover with a Goodman touchdown reception to cut the lead to 20-17. The Gladiators’ defense stepped up, holding the Voodoo scoreless in the period.
In the fourth quarter, the Gladiators forced another turnover, the fourth of the day, on Perrilloux’s third interception. Austin would go on to record his second rushing touchdown of the evening, giving Cleveland their first lead of the night at 24-20. After another defensive stop, the Gladiators built on their lead with Austin’s 21-yard completion to Lewis to go up 31-20. A 20-yard touchdown reception by Goodman accounted for Cleveland’s final score of the game.
The Gladiators scored 37 unanswered points to overcome the early 20-0 deficit. In Week One, Cleveland came back from a 17-point deficit after scoring 28 straight points. Cleveland’s defense only allowed one touchdown in the second half. Norman had three interceptions in the win, while DL Luke Black also picked off one. The Gladiators forced New Orleans to fumble twice.
The Gladiators will carry their perfect record into the home opener on Friday, April 4th against the Iowa Barnstormers.
NOTES: Cleveland has outscored its opponents 48-14 in fourth quarter this season…The Gladiators are now 1-4 all-time against New Orleans Both teams were on a bye last week…Tonight’s game was the first of two matchups this season between the two teams, who meet again on June 14 in Cleveland…With three picks on the evening, DB Marrio Norman now has four interceptions in 2014 after having seven in 2013…WR Thyron Lewis leads the Gladiators offense with three touchdown receptions this season…Cleveland lost the only meeting between the two teams last season…Cleveland is the only undefeated team in the American Conference East Division.