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Gladiators upended by Tampa Bay in final seconds, 52-48

Friday June 19, 2015

CLEVELAND -  An onside kick recovery led to a touchdown in the final seconds for the Tampa Bay Storm (6-6), who topped the Cleveland Gladiators (7-6) 52-48 Friday night before a Quicken Loans Arena crowd of 10,123 fans. Julius Gregory scored the go-ahead touchdown for the Storm with 2.5 seconds to play. For the Gladiators, quarterback Shane Austin passed for 229 yards and six touchdowns while rushing for another score. Receivers Amarri Jackson, Quorey Payne, and Collin Taylor each chipped in a pair of receiving touchdowns. The Gladiators visit Jacksonville Saturday, June 27th at 7:00 p.m., and the game can be heard live on 92.3 The Fan.

Tampa Bay took a 14-0 lead after a 42-yard touchdown pass from Boltus to Kendrick Ings with 11:31 left in the second quarter before the Gladiators mustered their first of three second quarter touchdowns. Austin found Jackson for a nine-yard touchdown pass with 8:36 left in the second quarter. Austin’s rushing touchdown came later in the second quarter, and with just 25 seconds remaining in the first half, Austin found Taylor for the first of his two touchdown catches to pull the Gladiators to within three points. Taylor finished the game with 95 receiving yards to lead the Gladiators.

Gladiators defensive back Fred Shaw intercepted a Boltus pass in the final seconds of the first half to keep the Gladiators within three points at the break; a pivotal play with the Gladiators set to receive the second-half kickoff.

The Gladiators outscored Tampa Bay 13-6 in the third quarter on the strength of a 19-yard touchdown catch by Jackson and a 10-yard touchdown catch by Payne as the frame expired; Payne’s first touchdown catch for the Gladiators this season. The Gladiators took a 34-30 lead into the fourth quarter, and Tampa Bay managed 22 points in the final frame to the Gladiators 14.

With 3:27 left in the fourth quarter, Austin found Payne from 18 yards to help the Gladiators to a 48-37 lead. Tampa Bay responded with a two-yard touchdown pass from Boltus to T.T. Toliver with 47 seconds left and a two-point conversion pass to Gregory to cut the Gladiators lead to 48-45. Craig Peterson’s onside kick attempt was recovered by Tampa Bay, setting up a game-winning drive that was capped off by an eight-yard touchdown pass from Boltus to Gregory with 2.5 seconds remaining, catapulting Tampa Bay to a 52-48 lead.

The Gladiators attempted a Hail Mary pass as time expired, but were unable to convert as Tampa Bay held on for the win; their first in three tries this season against Cleveland.

The Gladiators visit Jacksonville a week from tomorrow at 7:00 p.m.; a game that can be heard live on 92.3 The Fan.

NOTES: The Gladiators are 2-4 at home this season compared to 5-2 on the road… Tampa Bay outgained the Gladiators in total yardage 359-246… Shane Austin has not thrown an interception in three straight games… Jackson had eight kickoff returns for 180 yards… Willie McGinnis and Randy Colling each had 1.5 sacks… Shaw and Donnie Fletcher each had interceptions… Dominic Jones led the Gladiators with eight tackles… Follow the Gladiators on Twitter @CLEGladiators, on Facebook at www.facebook.com/clevelandgladiators, and on Instagram at www.instagram.com/clevelandgladiators.