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Predators fall to Cleveland in the American Conference Championship, 56-46

Sunday August 10, 2014

CLEVELAND, OH – The 2014 South Division Champion Orlando Predators (12-8) fell to the Cleveland Gladiators (19-1) in the American Conference Championship on Sunday evening, 56-46. Orlando concludes the 2014 campaign with its best record since 2003.

QB Bernard Morris finished the night throwing for 360 yards with four touchdowns and one interception while adding nine yards and another score on the ground. WR Greg Carr hauled in nine pass for 74 yards and two touchdowns while also recording a two-yard touchdown run. WR Larry Brackins registered 69 yards and one score on five catches and 13 yards and another touchdown on two carries.
The two teams traded scores throughout the first quarter, beginning with a 10-yard touchdown pass from Cleveland QB Shane Austin to WR Thyron Lewis. The Predators matched the score on their first possession, as WR Greg Carr outmuscled a defender to secure a three-yard touchdown before toppling over the end zone walls. Cleveland took the lead off a six-yard score by WR Dominick Goodman, but WR Gerald Young secured a wide open 17-yard touchdown pass for Orlando as the Predators tied the game at the end of the first quarter, 14-14.
Austin hooked up with Goodman for another score to open the second quarter, this time from 10 yards out. On the ensuing Predators drive, Morris drove the offense to the opponent’s goal line, but fumbled the snap exchange on third down. Cleveland recovered the loose ball and set up a one-yard touchdown by FB Jason Jones to take a 28-14 lead. Facing 4th-&-4 on the ensuing series, Morris dropped back and lofted a pass to WR Larry Brackins, who made a leaping reception in the back of the end zone to secure a 16-yard touchdown.
Cleveland scored on a 14-yard pass to Goodman on its next series, but Orlando would get the final points of the half. With just 10 seconds remaining on the clock, Brackins took the carry on a toss and sprinted through defenders on the side right before trotting into the end zone for the score, making it 35-28 Cleveland at the midway point.
Orlando received to open the third quarter, but the Predators gave the ball back as Morris was intercepted in the back of the end zone. Orlando immediately regained possession after Anthony Shutt stripped Goodman and TJ Fatinikun recovered the fumble for the Predators, but the ensuing series would end in a turnover on downs. Cleveland managed to score on a nine-yard pass from Austin to Gilson, putting the Predators in a 42-28 hole late in the third quarter.
Orlando shook off the drought early in the fourth quarter. Facing fourth down nine yards shy of the end zone, Morris eluded defenders and scrambled across the goal line to decrease the deficit, but a missed PAT made it 42-34 Cleveland. Following a long kickoff return, the Gladiators quickly found the end zone off a 20-yard pass from Austin to Lewis. Orlando answered with a lengthy drive that was capped off with a two-yard touchdown run by Carr. However the PAT was missed for the second time, leaving the Predators with a two score deficit.
Orlando’s defense managed to force a turnover on downs after denying Cleveland on fourth down, but Bernard Morris was sacked on the ensuing drive, resulting in a fumble. Cleveland scored on the following drive as Austin flipped a three-yard pass to Lewis. Orlando found the end zone on a 13-yard pass to Greg Carr a series later, but Cleveland would run out on the clock on the following drive the seal the game.
The Orlando Predators are heading into their 23rd season as Orlando’s most exciting and innovative professional sports franchise. Proud members of the Arena Football League, the Predators have achieved unprecedented success on the field. Orlando has advanced to the AFL playoffs a league-leading 19 times in their history while securing seven conference championships, including two ArenaBowl Championship victories in 1998 and 2000.