CLEVELAND (92.3 The Fan) – The Cleveland Gladiators looked like a team that hadn’t played in over two weeks in a mistake filled 54-42 loss to the New Orleans Voodoo Saturday night at Quicken Loans Arena.
Penalties, a sub par kicking game and three-fourth quarter turnovers did the Gladiators in as they were handed their fourth consecutive loss dropping them to 6-7 on the season.
Cleveland, who forfeited last week’s contest to Pittsburgh due to a players strike, led 42-28 late in the third quarter before the Voodoo scored the game’s final 26 points.
“We had it there for the taking and we just didn’t take it,” coach Steve Thonn said. “We had a blown protections, a fumble then an interception to end the game so you just can’t have that.
“We had the game going into the fourth quarter, we had the lead but we just have to finish and keep the lead.”
Voodoo defensive lineman Michael Janac gave New Orleans it’s first lead with 4:23 to play when he recovered quarterback John Dutton’s fumble in the end zone to put New Orleans on top 47-42.
“We had a lot of momentum, it was going kind of smooth then I don’t know what happened,” Dutton said. “We didn’t finish the game on offense and unfortunately we had too many turnovers.
“We lost the momentum and that’s a tough way to lose the game.”
On the Gladiators next possession, receiver Robert Redd was stripped by Voodoo defensive back Demarcus Robinson and New Orleans quickly put the game away when Kurt Rocco found Courtney Smith for a 33-yard touchdown to provide the final margin.
“I let my team down and take full responsibility for the loss,” Redd said. “I have to protect the football. I was trying to make a play and tired to do too much and I lost the ball.
“I’ll take this ‘L’ on my shoulders.”
New Orleans linebacker Alvin Ray Jackson sealed the game by intercepting Dutton in the end zone with 24 seconds to play.
“We can’t play three quarters then take the fourth quarter off,” Dutton said. “It’s up to us to take care of the ball and that was the difference in the game.”
Dutton finished the game completing 23-of-33 passes for 270 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions. He also ran for a pair of scores.
Dutton’s first rushing touchdown came with 58 seconds to play in the first half and put Cleveland in front 21-13.
After the score, Thonn gambled with an onside kick and it blew up in the Gladiators’ face.
Voodoo receiver Courtney Smith recovered the kick and returned it to the Gladiators one-yard line before Rocco ran it in on the next play to cut the lead to one at 21-20.
New Orleans countered with an onside kick of their own which Gladiators receiver Dominik Goodman returned to the two.
A mêlée ensued when Voodoo defensive back Jamaal Fudge grabbed Goodman’s face mask sparking a fight that resulted in a total of four offsetting penalties and three ejections.
Fudge along with receiver L.J. Castile were tossed for New Orleans and Gladiators linebacker Jermaine Richardson was also ejected.
Dutton was intercepted in the end zone but Cleveland quickly got the ball back when Levy Brown picked off Rocco with 19.5 seconds to play in the half. Dutton cashed in the turnover with his second touchdown run of the game to extend the lead to 28-20 at the half.
Rocco, who spent the 2011 season with the Gladiators, completed 27-of-48 passes for 296 yards, four touchdowns and a pair of interceptions in the victory – the sixth of the season for New Orleans.