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Gladiators Win Fourth Straight, Top Tampa Bay 48-41

Friday June 27, 2014

CLEVELAND, OH - Dominick Goodman caught a Gladiators season-high 16 passes as Cleveland (13-1) topped the Tampa Bay Storm (8-7) 48-41 before a Quicken Loans Arena crowd of 10,855. The victory extended the Gladiators win streak to four, while Tampa Bay saw its five-game win streak come to a halt with the defeat. The victory guarantees the Gladiators will finish no worse than third in the American Conference. Quarterback Shane Austin completed 29 of 37 passes for 311 yards and five touchdowns, while also adding a rushing touchdown. Receivers Collin Taylor and Thyron Lewis each notched a pair of touchdown catches, with Taylor picking up 71 yards and Lewis gaining 69 yards. Defensively, LaRoche Jackson and Marrio Norman each intercepted passes for the Gladiators, who will host Portland next Saturday, July 5, at 6:00 PM.

The Gladiators dictated the tempo of the game from the start, charging out to a 13-0 lead through one quarter. Austin completed a 13-yard pass to Lewis for a touchdown on the Gladiators first offensive series just 3:28 into the game, and after over 10 minutes of scoreless football and the two teams trading turnovers, the Gladiators took a two-score lead. Austin found Taylor in the end zone from three yards out with 1:32 left in the first quarter.

The second frame was back-and-forth. Tampa Bay’s Joe Hills caught an eight yard touchdown pass from Randy Hippeard 1:45 into the quarter to cut the Gladiators lead to 13-7, but Goodman’s two-yard touchdown catch less than four minutes later kept the Gladiators in front by two scores. Following another Tampa Bay second quarter touchdown, Jackson’s interception proved to be one of the pivotal plays of the game. On what would be the final play of the first half, Jackson intercepted Hippeard inside the 10-yard line, and returned the interception 48-yards for a touchdown, giving the Gladiators a 27-14 halftime lead.

The only quarter in which Tampa Bay outscored the Gladiators was the third; the Storm tallied 13 points in the third quarter, while the Gladiators mustered seven against a Stingy Tampa Bay defense. The lone Gladiators touchdown in the third quarter was Austin’s team-leading 11th rushing touchdown of the season. Austin plunged over the goal line from two yards out, helping give the Gladiators a 34-27 lead. Early in the fourth quarter, Tampa Bay tied the game 34-34 on a four-yard pass from Hippeard to Hills 3:50 into the frame.

The turning point of the second half was marked by a short pass over the middle from Austin to Taylor with 10:21 remaining in regulation. The play turned into a 46-yard touchdown pass, as Taylor broke multiple tackles to slip through the Tampa Bay defense. The play gave the Gladiators a 41-34 lead, and was followed up by a 29-yard connection between Austin and Lewis with 1:20 remaining to extend the Cleveland lead to 48-34. Tampa Bay added another late touchdown, but it was not enough to overcome the Gladiators advantage.

The Gladiators host Portland next Saturday, July 5, at 6:00 PM.

NOTES: Austin is 9-1 as the Gladiators starting quarterback in 2014… Austin currently carries a 76-11 touchdown-to-interception ratio… Austin has thrown 31 touchdown passes to just one interception during the Gladiators current four-game win streak… Lewis leads the Gladiators with 32 touchdown catches… Goodman leads the Gladiators with 120 catches on the season… Taylor has 15 receiving touchdowns this season… Luke Black, Randy Colling, and Willie McGinnis each registered quarterback sacks for the Gladiators… Jackson accumuluated 73 yards on five kickoff returns for an average of 14.6 yards per return… The Gladiators are 1-0 against Tampa Bay this season, and will meet the Storm to close out the regular season on July 26 in Tampa.