Predators clinch playoff berth with 65-58 victory over Cleveland Gladiators
Saturday July 18, 2015
Orlando Punches Postseason Ticket with Third Straight Win
CLEVELAND, OH – July 18, 2015 – With a 65-58 road victory over the Cleveland Gladiators (7-9) in front of 13,186 fans on Saturday evening, the Orlando Predators (10-6) became the third team in the American Conference to clinch a playoff berth. Orlando is headed to the postseason for the 22nd time in the team’s 24-season history.
The Predators managed to score in all three phases of the game, finding the end zone on offense, defense, and even special teams. Quarterback Randy Hippeard connected on 19-of-32 pass attempts for 202 yards and six touchdowns with one interception, hooking up with three different receivers for scores.
Larry Brackins snared five passes for 43 yards and four touchdowns. Brandon Thompkins caught four balls for 20 yards and a score while also adding a three-yard rushing touchdown. LaMark Brown paced the group with six catches for 78 yards and another touchdown and chipped in another touchdown on special teams by returning a loose kickoff for a score.
On defense, linebacker and team captain Terence Moore registered 5.0 total tackles with three pass breakups and a 10-yard fumble returned for a touchdown. Nose guard Austin Brown added 4.0 total tackles with an eight-yard sack, one forced fumble, two pass breakups and one blocked kick.
Cleveland would find the end zone on a one-yard quarterback sneak by Shane Austin on the game’s opening drive for an early 7-0 advantage. From there, the Predators would build a 14-7 lead off of two unanswered scores, beginning with a seven-yard touchdown pass from Hippeard to Brackins. Moments later, Mark Lewis booted the kickoff off the net, causing it to bounce back into the field and into the arms of LaMark Brown, who returned it for a quick score.
The Gladiators would find the end zone two plays later on a 12-yard touchdown throw from Austin to Collin Taylor, resulting in a 14-14 tie at the end of the opening stanza. Orlando would regain the lead a series later as Hippeard tossed it to Brandon Thompkins in the backfield on a reverse, who ran it in from three yards out for a 21-14 advantage. Cleveland evened the score on its next drive as Austin hooked up with Taylor for another touchdown, this time from 14 yards out.
The Predators would use a six-play, 45-yard drive to regain the lead with just over a minute remaining in the first half. Hippeard fired a two-yard touchdown pass to a wide-open Brandon Thompkins to go up 28-21 with 1:18 on the clock. The Predators would force the Gladiators into a 4th-&-Goal situation on the ensuing drive, but Austin managed to scramble out of the pocket and complete a seven-yard touchdown throw to Taylor to tie the game.
The two teams traded field goals in a span of just 38 seconds to close out the half in a 31-31 tie. Mark Lewis connected on a 21-yard attempt for Orlando, while Adrian Trevino booted a 35-yard field goal for the Gladiators.
The Predators came firing out of the gates to open the second half, posting two unanswered scores to go ahead 45-31 midway through the third quarter. On Orlando’s opening drive, LaMark Brown hauled in a short pass and turned up field, plowing through the defense as he carried would-be tacklers across the goal line for a 14-yard touchdown. Three plays into the ensuing Gladiators possession, Terence Moore tipped Shane Austin’s pass over the middle and Nick Taylor ran under it to secure the interception. Facing 4th-&-10 on the resulting drive, Hippeard fired a pass over the middle to Larry Brackins, who shrugged off a defender and ran 21 yards to the end zone for a two-score lead.
Cleveland regained possession and made it a one-score game as Austin connected with Amarri Jackson on a nine-yard touchdown throw. Hippeard had his pass attempt intercepted by Devon Dace two plays into Orlando’s next series and Austin completed an 11-yard touchdown to Collin Taylor to tie the game 45-45 early in the fourth quarter.
Hippeard shook off the turnover and proceeded to march the offense downfield as he completed four straight pass attempts, including a six-yard touchdown strike to Larry Brackins to regain the lead, 52-45. Facing 4th-&-3 on the ensuing Cleveland drive, nose guard Austin Brown broke through the interior and sacked Shane Austin, forcing him to fumble on the play. Terence Moore recovered the loose ball and raced 10 yards to the end zone for the touchdown for a 58-45 Predators lead midway through the fourth quarter.
Cleveland scored on its next possession off a one-yard quarterback sneak by Shane Austin, but Austin Brown made his presence felt yet again as he burst through the line and blocked the PAT attempt to keep the Predators lead at 58-51. Orlando then recovered Cleveland’s onside kick attempt and four the end zone three plays later as Hippeard lofted a three-yard touchdown to Brackins for a 65-51 Orlando lead. The Gladiators managed to score with 19 seconds remaining in the game as Austin connected with Dominick Goodman from eight yards out, but the Predators would recover the ensuing onside kick and ran out the clock to seal the victory.
The Predators head into a bye week before returning to action against the division-rival Jacksonville Sharks at the Amway Center on Saturday, August 1st at 7:00pm EST. For tickets, call 407-355-2200 or visit OrlandoPredators.com. For all the latest news and updates, visit OrlandoPredators.com and follow the team on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
RUSSELL ATHLETIC OFFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE GAME
Orlando QB Randy Hippeard
RIDDELL DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE GAME
Cleveland DB Devon Dace
J.LEWIS SMALL PLAYMAKER OF THE GAME
Cleveland WR Collin Taylor
CUTTERS CATCH OF THE GAME
12-yard reception by Cleveland WR Dominick Goodman (Q2 | 10:19)
AFL HIGHLIGHT OF THE GAME
11-yard touchdown reception by Cleveland WR Collin Taylor (Q4 | 14:19)
ABOUT THE ORLANDO PREDATORS
The 2014 South Division Champion Orlando Predators enters its 24th season as Central Florida’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 22 times in their history while securing seven conference championships, including two ArenaBowl Championship victories in 1998 and 2000.