Gladiators defense seals 62-54 victory over Tampa Bay
Friday April 24, 2015
CLEVELAND - Collin Taylor’s interception returned for a touchdown gave the Cleveland Gladiators (3-2) their first lead in the third quarter, and Donnie Fletcher’s touchdown off an interception gave the Gladiators the insurance they needed to knock off the Tampa Bay Storm (2-3) 62-54 before a crowd of 11,120 at Quicken Loans Arena. Taylor led the Gladiators with 111 receiving yards and three touchdowns in the game, and added the defensive touchdown for his second straight game with four touchdowns. Shane Austin passed for 285 yards and six touchdowns. The Gladiators visit Orlando Saturday, May 2nd at 7:00 p.m., with the game airing live on 92.3 The Fan.
After the two teams traded fumbles on the first two offensive series of the game, they traded touchdowns on their next two drives. Kendrick Ings scored the first of his two touchdowns on an 11-yard strike from Jason Boltus with 5:50 left in the opening quarter, and just under three minutes later, the Gladiators tied the game when Jeramie Richardson scampered in for a 23-yard touchdown run. After one quarter, the game was tied 7-7.
Each team scored 35 points in the second and third quarters combined, and for Tampa Bay, T.T. Toliver was the key factor. Toliver notched three of his four receiving touchdowns in the second quarter, and each one was from at least 21 yards. With the Gladiators down 28-14 late in the first half, Austin found Taylor from five yards out for a touchdown, and with a successful extra point try from Adrian Trevino, the Gladiators cut the deficit to seven points heading into halftime.
The Gladiators had the ball to start the second half, and tied the game by executing a five-play, 47-yard drive that took 2:37 off the clock. The drive was capped off by a 24-yard catch-and-run touchdown pass from Austin to Taylor; Taylor took a short pass and streaked up the right sideline en route to the end zone, and the Gladiators tied the game at 28-28 with the successful extra points. Amarri Jackson’s 31-yard touchdown catch with 6:47 left in the third tied the game at 35-35 for the Gladiators, and 1:33 later, Taylor picked off a pass from Boltus at the Tampa Bay 12-yard line, and dashed to the end zone untouched to help the Gladiators to their first lead, making the score 42-35. Tampa Bay tied the game at 42-42 with the final score of the third quarter; a 45-yard touchdown pass from Boltus to Ings with 4:04 left in the frame.
After Taylor picked up his third receiving touchdown of the game to boost the Gladiators to a 48-42 lead with 11:35 left in the fourth quarter, Tampa Bay tied the game on a one-yard run from Boltus with 4:22 left in regulation. A wild snap on the extra point attempt led to the Gladiators foiling the extra point try, leaving the game tied at 48-48 entering the final minutes.
Cleveland took a 55-48 lead with 52 seconds left after Austin marched the Gladiators offense down the field on a three-minute drive, finishing the series off with an eight-yard touchdown pass to Dominick Goodman; the second touchdown catch of the night for Goodman, who finished with 63 receiving yards in the game. On the ensuing Tampa Bay drive, Boltus was picked off by Fletcher on a pass over the middle, and Fletcher returned the interception 22 yards to the end zone, putting the Gladiators on top for good. Tampa Bay added a late touchdown from Toliver, but were unable to erase the deficit.
The Gladiators visit Orlando a week from Saturday, and host Jacksonville to begin a two-game homestand on Friday, May 8th. Every Gladiators game airs live on 92.3 The Fan.
NOTES: The Gladiators are 2-0 against Tampa Bay this season; they also knocked off the Storm in week one by a 60-44 score… The Gladiators were not penalized in the second half… Andrae Thurman returned six kickoffs for 86 yards and a long return of 25 yards, and had one catch for 10 yards in the game… Joe Phinisee led the Gladiators with nine total tackles… Richardson had five carries for 33 yards and a touchdown… Follow the Gladiators on Twitter @CLEGladiators, on Facebook at www.facebook.com/clevelandgladiators, and on Instagram at www.instagram.com/clevelandgladiators.