Cleveland Gladiators Press Release
Cleveland – In front of 13,429 fans, the team’s largest home crowd of the year, the Cleveland Gladiators were defeated by the undefeated Orlando Predators (5-0) on Friday at The Q by a final score of 76-56. With the loss, the Gladiators fell to 1-4 on the season and remain alone in third place in the AFL’s National Conference standings.
The Predators capped a three-play scoring drive with an eight-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Randy Hippeard toBrandon Thompkins early in the opening quarter before the Gladiators tied the game on their next possession on a three-yard touchdown rush by Larry Beavers. Orlando re-claimed the lead late in the first quarter with another Hipperad to Thompkins touchdown throw, but Beavers provided Cleveland with another response with just under five minutes remaining in the quarter by returning the ensuing kickoff 57 yards for the Gladiators’ first kickoff-return touchdown of the season.
The Predators continued Friday’s see-saw first half with a 28-yard touchdown toss from Hippeard to Thompkins before Cleveland capped the quarter with a 30-yard touchdown connection from Northeast Ohio native Arvell Nelson to Collin Taylor, marking Taylor’s 21st-consecutive game with at least one touchdown reception. Orlando reclaimed the lead late in the second quarter on a fumble return for a touchdown, before Nelson completed a four-yard touchdown pass to Quentin Sims to again draw the Gladiators even on the scoreboard. With just over three minutes remaining in the second quarter, Hippeard and Thompkins connected again to pull the Predators ahead by a score of 34-28, but Nelson found a familiar target in veteran wideout Dominick Goodman with just under two minutes remaining in the half to put Cleveland in front 35-34 after a successful Adrian Trevino PAT.
The first half’s scoring was far from over, however, as a two-yard rushing touchdown from Thompkins put Orlando up 41-35 with just 34 seconds remaining in the second quarter, but yet again, Nelson and the Gladiators punched back, as the Glenville native striped a touchdown pass into the hands of Sims to put Cleveland up 42-41 with just 17 seconds left in the half. The Gladiators stayed hot to start the third quarter, as Nelson and Taylor hooked up for a 23-yard TD pass to make it 49-41 before Thompkins registered his sixth TD of the game on a 56-yard touchdown return of the ensuing kickoff for Orlando just under five minutes into the third to draw the Predators back within just one point at 49-48. After Nelson threw his first interception of the game in the GEICO Blue Zone with just over six minutes to go in the third quarter, Hippeard completed a 45-yard touchdown strike, again to Thompkins, to give the Predators a 55-49 advantage.
A lengthy Gladiators drive ensued, culminating in Nelson’s sixth touchdown throw of the night, and third to Taylor, in the third quarter’s final minute to, after another successful point after from Trevino, reclaim the edge for Cleveland at 56-55. A 40 yard passing play for the Predators set up a goal-line stand for the Gladiators’ defense, but after pushing Orlando to third down, Kippeard connected with offensive lineman Jordan McCray on a one-yard shovel pass for a Predators touchdown, making it 62-56 for the visitors. After a Gladiators fumble, the Predators extended their lead on a ten-yard Hippeard-to-Thompkins touchdown toss, Thompkins’ seventh score of the game, to make it 69-56 Orlando with 4:20 remaining in the game. In the wake of another Nelson interception, the Predators took over on the Gladiators’ 15 yard-line with 2:39 left in the game and, after the one-minute warning, punched home a one-yard TD run from Hibbeard with 10.3 seconds left in the game to cap the scoring at 76-56 Predators.
In his first start under center for Cleveland, Nelson completed 25 passes on 37 attempts for 332 yards, six touchdowns and two interceptions, while Collin Taylor caught a team-high three scores on 11 catches for 148 yards. Brandon Stephens’ four tackles led the charge defensively for the Gladiators while wide receiver Larry Beavers contributed 211 return yards for Cleveland and the Gladiators’ first kick-return for a touchdown this season.
Next up for the Gladiators, it’s a Week 6 home clash vs. the Jacksonville Sharks on Saturday, May 7th on Go Pink Night with full coverage at 7:30 pm, live from The Q, on 92.3 The Fan.