“That’s an arena football game at its finest,” said Brigade Head Coach Omarr Smith. “The game is always going to come down to the last possession most likely. I’m really glad that we were able to get a win, at home, for the city of Baltimore.”
Cleveland took an early lead on their first possession of the game when QB Arvell Nelson found WR Quentin Sims for the first of his five touchdowns, a 15-yarder to put the Gladiators up 6-0. Just five minutes later, the Gladiators extended their lead when Sims found the end zone again, this time from seven yards out. In his first game for the Brigade, WR Milton Williams found the end zone early, putting Baltimore on the board with 1:55 remaining in the opening quarter. Sims notched his third score of the game with 13:10 left in the second quarter. The Gladiators’ third missed extra point attempt of the game left the score at 18-7. The Brigade answered, however, as QB Shane Carden and WR Julian Talley connected on a 39-yard touchdown with just under 12 minutes remaining in the half. Talley entered the game with three straight 100-yard, two-touchdown outings. A Carden dive from the one-yard line brought the Brigade within four points, trailing 32-28, at halftime.
Early in the third quarter, Brigade FB Rory Nixon took a short pass and turned it into a 30-yard gain. Only a few plays later, Williams made a highlight reel catch as he managed to haul in Carden’s pass for a touchdown while falling over the end zone wall, giving Baltimore their first lead of the game, 34-32. The lead would be short-lived, however, as the Gladiators answered with a 29-yard Quentin Sims touchdown, his fourth of the night.
The fourth quarter featured six lead changes, including Sims fifth touchdown of the night, a 47-yard catch and run that gave the Gladiators a 47-41 lead early in the quarter. Brigade WR Paul Browning answered with a long touchdown catch of his own, a 42-yarder to put Baltimore back on top. Cleveland took a 50-56 lead with 0:47 remaining when they FB Jermaine Richardson punched it in from one yard out. Brigade WR Kendal Thompkins returned the ensuing kickoff 54 yards to give Baltimore a 63-60 lead with 0:39 left. Cleveland got the ball inside the Brigade 10-yard line, but Baltimore stuffed the Cleveland offense on consecutive passing plays with under 10 seconds remaining to seal the victory.
KEY STAT: The Brigade overcame a steep possession-time deficit in the final frame. Baltimore outscored Cleveland 29-21 in the fourth quarter despite the Gladiators holding the ball for 11:03 of the quarter’s 15 minutes.
KEY MOMENT: A frantic final minute featured a 54-yard kickoff return by WR Kendal Thompkins with 0:39 remaining in the game, giving the Brigade a 63-60 lead. On the following possession, Baltimore held Cleveland out of the end zone, despite two attempts from within the five-yard line with less than 10 seconds remaining in the game.
MVP: Baltimore QB Shane Carden – 21-30 passing, 272 yards and seven total TDs (six passing)
OFFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE GAME: Cleveland WR Quentin Sims – 12 receptions, 188 yards and five TDs
DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE GAME: Cleveland DB Frederick Obi – nine total tackles, six solo tackles and one pass break-up
The Brigade hit the road next week for a matchup with the Tampa Bay Storm on Sat., June 3 at 7 p.m. The game will be broadcast live on Monumental Sports Network.
BRIGADE HEAD COACH OMARR SMITH
On the win:
“That’s an arena football game at its finest. The game is always going to come down to the last possession most likely. I’m really glad that we were able to get a win, at home, for the city of Baltimore. It’s really important to us to have some success at home. It was a very entertaining game from the fan perspective I’m sure.”
On the home crowd being loud and supportive:
“Arena football is here in Baltimore, and it’s a good show. It’s entertaining, it’s a good night out for the family, and my thought is that if we keep winning, more people will come.”
BRIGADE QUARTERBACK SHANE CARDEN
On the win:
“We needed it. We needed it desperately tonight. We kept fighting, we’ve been in dogfights before and have never finished, so our whole thing this week was ‘you have to finish’. The offense was expecting to go back on the field and finish the game. We got a great return from Kendall (Thompkins) and I was kind of like ‘alright defense, this is your turn, this is your time’ and they came up big for us.”
On his ability to make plays outside the pocket:
“That’s always kind of been a part of my game. I’m just kind of growing and understanding when to do that, when to not. It’s very tight, you can’t really get away too far from the defensive lineman, so I’m getting more comfortable with getting that in my game in the arena.”