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Gladiators win thriller in Philadelphia on final play, clinch playoff berth

Saturday June 21, 2014

CLEVELAND, OH - Shane Austin’s 47-yard pass on the final play of regulation was deflected into the hands of Dominick Goodman for a touchdown on the final play of regulation, securing a 69-68 road win for the American Conference-leading Cleveland Gladiators (12-1) over the Philadelphia Soul (6-8). The victory secures a berth for the Gladiators in the Arena Football League playoffs with five games to play in the regular season. Austin completed 26 of 40 passes for 409 yards and 11 touchdowns. Thyron Lewis led all receivers with 172 yards and four touchdowns in the victory, while Goodman added 168 yards and three receiving touchdowns. Collin Taylor also registered three touchdowns for the Gladiators, who swept the two-game season series against Philadelphia with a pair of last-second victories. The Gladiators begin a two-game homestand Friday night at 7:00 PM against Tampa Bay.

Jason Jones and Goodman had receiving touchdowns in the first quarter for the Gladiators, who traded scores with Philadelphia through the first four series of the opening frame. However, Philadelphia opened up a 20-12 lead after the first 15 minutes when Bryan Robinson recovered an Austin fumble in the end zone on the stanza’s final play. Just 2:01 into the second quarter, Lewis was on the receiving end of a 47-yard touchdown pass from Austin, which pulled the Gladiators within two points. The Gladiators and Soul continued to trade scoring plays, in the second quarter with with 6:07 left in the frame Lewis reeled in a 40-yard touchdown pass from Austin to pull Cleveland to within 27-25.

Taylor’s nine-yard touchdown catch with 56 seconds remaining in the half cut the Philadelphia lead to 34-31, but Philadelphia’s Derrick Ross scored on a one-yard run with five seconds left in the first half to secure a 41-31 lead for the Soul.

Defensive back Christian Wise ignited the Gladiators second half comeback when he intercepted Soul quarterback Dan Raudabaugh on the first Philadelphia drive of the third quarter. On the ensuing possession, the combo of Austin and Lewis once again cut the Soul lead down to three points with a 13-yard touchdown pass 4:09 into the third quarter. With help from a Goodman 17-yard touchdown catch with 6:03 left in the third quarter, the Gladiators stayed within four points of the Soul after three quarters.

The Gladiators trailed 55-44 with 12:34 left in regulation, and trailed 62-50 with 3:06 remaining, but managed to erase the deficit and outscore Philadelphia 25-20 in the fourth quarter. After a Soul touchdown gave them a 62-50 lead with 3:06 remaining, the Gladiators began work on a 19-6 run to close the game and win by a single point. Taylor caught a two-yard touchdown pass with 59 seconds left, and the Gladiators recovered the ensuing onside kick. With 33 seconds left, Lewis caught a 28-yard touchdown pass to give the Gladiators their first lead since going ahead 12-6 with 6:20 left in the first quarter. Philadelphia’s Markee White caught a three-yard touchdown pass with two seconds left to take a 68-63 lead for the Soul which paved the way for the final play dramatics.

On the last play of regulation, Austin’s 47-yard pass was batted by Philadelphia defenders, but Goodman made the catch just outside the end zone and walked in for six points, ultimately winning the game for the Gladiators. Because the Gladiators led by a single point, they were forced to run the point-after play, on which Austin took a knee to end the game.

The Gladiators host Tampa Bay Friday at 7:00 PM at Quicken Loans Arena.

NOTES: The Gladiators have won three games on last-second touchdowns this season, and another on a last-second field goal… Goodman has six touchdown catches over his last two games, while Lewis has eight over his last two contests… Lewis leads the Gladiators with 30 receiving touchdowns on the campaign… Goodman and Lewis each eclipsed 1,000 receiving yards on the season in Saturday’s win… The Gladiators have recovered four-of-five onside kick attempts this season; a league-best percentage… The Gladiators are 6-1 on the road this season and 7-1 against East Division opponents.