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Gladiators top Soul 54-52 on final play, Improve to 9-0 on season

Friday May 23, 2014

 CLEVELAND, OH - Shane Austin’s 11-yard touchdown pass to Thyron Lewis on the final play of regulation sealed a 54-52 victory for the Cleveland Gladiators (9-0) over the Philadelphia Soul (5-5) Friday before a crowd of 10,659 at Quicken Loans Arena. Lewis’ touchdown capped off an improbable last-minute comeback for the Gladiators, who scored three touchdowns and recovered two onside kicks in the final 52 seconds of the game. Austin finished with 29 completions on 46 passes for 345 yards and five touchdowns, while Lewis caught three touchdowns for the Gladiators. Dominick Goodman and Tyrone Collins each topped the century mark in receiving yards with 113 and 111 yards respectively, while the two onside kicks attempted by kicker Aaron Pettrey in the final minute were the first two attempted by the Gladiators on the campaign.

Philadelphia stormed out to a 21-14 lead through one quarter, capitalizing on a Gladiators fumbled kickoff return and getting a 56-yard kickoff return for a touchdown by former Gladiator Robert Redd. The Gladiators were held off the board in the second quarter, with Philadelphia controlling the game to the tune of a 31-14 lead at the game’s midway point. Philadelphia was never able to pull away from the opportunistic Gladiators, who would outscore the Soul 40-21 in the second half.

The second-half comeback began with a one-yard touchdown run by Austin with 6:07 left in the third quarter, as the Gladiators continued to keep pace with the Soul, who were managing to put together efficient drives throughout the first three quarters. A series of game-changing plays swung the momentum in the Gladiators favor in an eventful fourth quarter.

On the fourth quarter’s first play, Collin Taylor ran for a one-yard touchdown to pull the Gladiators to within 10 points, making the score 38-28. The Gladiators and Soul traded touchdowns until 3:05 remained in the fourth quarter; at which point Derrick Ross ran for an eight-yard touchdown to give Philadelphia a 52-35 lead. In the final minute, the Gladiators pieced together a perfectly executed comeback for the victory.

Lewis caught a 19-yard touchdown pass from Austin with 52 seconds left, and a Pettrey extra point pulled the Gladiators to within 10 points, leaving the score 52-42. The Gladiators recovered their first onside kick attempt of the season, and with 24 seconds left in regulation, Goodman caught a four-yard touchdown pass to cut the Philadelphia lead to 52-48. A low snap prevented the Gladiators from converting the extra point, taking away the ability to tie the game on the final drive with a field goal. Needing a touchdown, the Gladiators recovered the onside kick and, and drove to the 11-yard line of Philadelphia before just 0.8 seconds remained on the clock.

With time for one play and 11 yards separating the Gladiators from the end zone and maintaining their perfect record, Austin rolled out of the pocket to his right and connected with a diving Lewis for the game-winning touchdown, making the score 54-52. The play marked the second time this season the Gladiators have won a game on the final play of regulation.

The Gladiators head on the road next week for a Saturday, May 31 matchup in Pittsburgh against the Power at 5:00 PM. The game can be heard live on 92.3 The Fan.

NOTES: The Gladiators are 9-0 to start the season; the record for the most victories to start a season in Arena Football League history is 11, a mark reached by San Jose in 2002… Austin is 6-0 as a starter for the Gladiators this season, and has passed for at least 16 completions and three touchdown passes in his last seven games… Goodman has 52 catches over his last six games, and surpassed 500 receptions and 5,000 receiving yards in his AFL career during the win over Philadelphia… Lewis has seven touchdowns over his last seven games… Taylor has a touchdown in six of his last seven games.