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Gladiators roll past Barnstormers in home opener

Saturday April 5, 2014

CLEVELAND, OH - In an East Division battle, the Cleveland Gladiators (3-0) continued their hot start in 2014 by defeating the Iowa Barnstormers (1-2), 54-47, in front of 10,255 fans in the home opener at Quicken Loans Arena. Backup QB Shane Austin was 19-27 passing for 259 yards and six touchdowns, while also rushing for two more. Wide receivers Collin Taylor and Thyron Lewis each caught two touchdown passes. Dominick Goodman and Tyrone Collins also hauled in a touchdown through the air for the Gladiators.

In the first quarter, QB Chris Dieker was intercepted by DB Tramain Thomas on the Gladiators opening drive. Iowa WR Darius Reynolds would go on to plunge into the end zone for the early 7-0 lead for the Barnstormers. QB Shane Austin, who accounted for five touchdowns in the second half of last week’s comeback win over New Orleans, replaced Dieker but fumbled the ball in the Gladiators’ second possession. Cleveland prevented Iowa from capitalizing on another turnover with solid defense. The Gladiators finally got on the scoreboard after Austin connected on back-to-back completions to WR Collin Taylor, including a 9-yard touchdown pass. The Barnstormers quickly responded with another score to go up 13-6 after 15 minutes of play.

The Gladiators offense got rolling in the second quarter, outscoring Iowa 21-14 in the period. Austin found Lewis for a 14-yard touchdown reception in the early minutes to tie the game at 13-13. Austin and Lewis would connect once again, this time a 31-yard completion that put the Gladiators up 20-13. Austin ran 16 yards for his first rushing touchdown of the night with just 42 seconds remaining in the half. However, the Barnstormers added two scores in the quarter, including a rushing touchdown by QB Carson Coffman just before halftime to cut the Gladiators lead to 27-26.

In the Gladiators first possession of the third quarter, Goodman hauled in a 27-yard pass that put Cleveland near the goal line. The big play set up a 4-yard touchdown reception by Taylor, his second of the night, to put the Gladiators ahead by seven. After the Barnstormers punched in a score, Cleveland broke a 33-33 tie on Austin’s second rushing touchdown in the final play of the period. The Gladiators mustered 13 points in the third quarter, compared to only seven for Iowa.

With a 40-33 lead, Cleveland took control of the game on Austin’s 8-yard touchdown pass to Goodman on fourth down at the 9:52 mark of the fourth quarter. Although the Barnstormers struck fast with a touchdown of their own, the Gladiators offense easily drove the field as Austin found a wide open Collins in the end zone for a 14-point cushion. Iowa would slice Cleveland’s lead to 54-47 with 46 seconds to go and nearly had a successful onside kick. However, a simultaneous possession ruling by the officials gave the Gladiators the ball as Cleveland was able to run out the clock and hold on for their third straight win.

Goodman led the way for the Gladiators in the receiving yards department with 89 yards on seven catches. Lewis caught six passes for 88 yards. DB Dominic Jones had 69 kick return yards on four attempts and collected 10 tackles on the evening. DB LaRoche Jackson paced the Gladiators on defense with 13 tackles. DL Willie McGinnis had two sacks and DL Brian Brikowski added one for Cleveland.

The Gladiators will go back on the road next weekend to face the Los Angeles KISS on Saturday.

NOTES: The Gladiators have outscored their opponents in the second half this season, 96-49, including 62-28 in fourth quarter this season…The Gladiators are 3-2 all-time against the Barnstormers…Tonight’s game was the first of three matchups this season between the two teams, who meet again on May 17 at Iowa and June 7 in Cleveland…WR Thyron Lewis leads the Gladiators offense with 22 catches, 323 yards and five touchdown receptions this season…In relief, QB Shane Austin has thrown for 441 yards and nine touchdowns, while rushing for four touchdowns…Cleveland lost the only meeting between the two teams last season, a 37-33 defeat on June 7, 2013…Cleveland is the only undefeated team in the American Conference…The Gladiators are now 2-0 against division opponents this season.