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Touchdown as Time Expires Keeps Glads Perfect

Sunday April 20, 2014

Chris Dieker’s 29-yard touchdown pass as time expired kept the Cleveland Gladiators (5-0) perfect as they came away with a 52-50 road win over the Spokane Shock (3-2) Saturday night at the Spokane Veterans Memorial Arena in Washington. With two seconds left in the game, Dieker’s desperation toss caromed off the net, and Thyron Lewis dove to the turf to come up with the ball and the victory.

 
Up 36-35 to begin the fourth quarter, Cleveland then halted a nine-play Spokane drive when Shock signal caller Erik Meyer was brought down behind the line by a pair of Gladiator defenders to maintain their lead. The Cleveland offense seized the momentum and marched down the field in two short plays, capped off by a Shane Autsin strike to Lewis from 28 yards out to put the visitors ahead 43-35 and 7:33 left in the game.
 
The Shock then struck back with a two-play drive of their own, first with Meyer finding Adron Tennell for a 31 yard connection followed by a quick flick on 1st and goal from the three-yard line to Bran Thompkins for the score. Meyer proceeded to find Thompkins again on the two-point attempt the very next play to knot the game at 43-43 and 5:26 remaining.
 
After having scored touchdowns on their previous four drives, including a defensive pick-six, the Gladiators were held to an Aaron Pettrey field goal on a clock-eating eight-play drive to go up 46-43 with 43 seconds left in Dieker’s first action of the night. With an opportunity to take the lead, Spokane rallied behind their home crowd of 8,752 to assemble a four-play scoring drive that was extended with a crucial roughing the passer penalty on Cleveland. The Shock had to go just nine yards with a Hank Edwards touchdown nab and 13 seconds on the clock to pull ahead 50-46
 
Dieker and the Gladiator offense had just four seconds to work with after the kickoff, first connecting with Dominick Goodman for a quick 13 yards and two seconds remaining. Dieker then dropped back and threw up a prayer in the sky that was kept alive off the net, which Lewis extended to grab just before coming back down to the earth.
 
Autsin finished 19-of-35 passing for 196 yards, four touchdowns and two interceptions after not throwing a pick in any of the first four games. The reigning AFL Week 5 MVP also rushed the ball twice for 12 yards and a score. Dieker was 2-of-4 for 42 yards and a touchdown, while rushing four times for 11 yards. Lewis caught five passes for 76 yards and two touchdowns, while Goodman hauled in a team-high 10 balls for 81 yards and a score. Marrio Norman led the Gladiators’ defensive attack with nine tackles and the 24-yard touchdown return off the interception. Joe Phinisee and Dominic Jones each came away with interceptions for Cleveland.
 
Meyer finished 24-of-34 passing for 252 yards, five touchdowns and two interceptions. Thompkins was the Shock signal caller’s favorite target on the night with 12 grabs for 128 yards and four scores. Edwards had six catches for 45 yards and a touchdown, while Tennell rounded out the receiving corps with six catches for 79 yards. Spokane’s defense rounded up six sacks on the night, with Terrance Taylor & James Ruffin each wrangling a pair of quarterback takedowns.
 
The Gladiators are back at The Q for an East Division matchup with the Pittsburgh Power next Saturday, April 26, at 7:00 p.m.
 
NOTES: The win extends the Gladiators’ franchise-best start to the season at 5-0… The Gladiators are now 3-2 in the all-time series against the Spokane Shock, with the road team winning all five matchups … Austin attempted 100 passes this season before surrendering his first interception… Goodman holds the team lead with 37 catches on the year… The Gladiators tied the season high set last week with three fourth down conversions.