Cleveland (92.3 The Fan) – The Cleveland Gladiators halted a 5-game losing streak with a 69-32 blowout win over Milwaukee Friday night at Quicken Loans Arena; their second win over the Mustangs this season. Cleveland’s record improves to 7-8 as the hopes of a wild card spot in the postseason remain alive with the 37-point victory.
“We talked about this as a playoff game for us. We got a win.” said Coach Steve Thonn. “The guys did a great job coming out and starting strong.”
The Gladiator’s top ranked scoring defense made it’s presence known with four more scores in this week 17 match-up including two pick-sixes and two fumble recoveries for touchdowns.
“Obviously with a D like that, Milwaukee didn’t know what hit em” said Gladiators signal caller John Dutton who admitted it was a great weight lifted to snap the losing streak. “We’ve got to win every game. We’re 1-0 in the playoffs, that’s the way we’re looking at it”.
The game featured an array of crowd pleasing and exciting plays but maybe none more-so than those in the first seven minutes. Three straight scoring plays began with 9:30 left in the first quarter with Maurice Williams intercepting a pass then returning it for 50 yards and a touchdown for the first six points of the game. The ensuing PAT was blocked then returned for two by Milwaukee’s Jamar Love to make it a 6-2 contest before Cleveland’s Brian Brikowski recovered a fumble to score on the very next play from scrimmage. The three plays made it a 13-2 lead for the Gladiators with 8:29 left before the Cleveland offense ever made it onto the field.
The score by Williams gave him three straight weeks of non-offensive touchdowns, having earned the Highlight of the Week award for his TD return against Jacksonville in week 16. He also had an interception return for a touchdown against the New Orleans VooDoo two weeks ago.
Quarterback John Dutton did his part for the Gladiators as well, going 14-for-20 for 158 yards and two touchdowns to each Domini Goodman and Carlese Frankli for a total of four scores.
According to Dutton, “We were efficient on offense, nothing spectacular. Just scored when we had to and the defense pretty much dominated that game.”
Matt Bassuener and Jer Richardson also each chipped in a TD for Cleveland on the ground.
Milwaukee QB Shane Boyd threw for 133-yards and a touchdown before being replaced by Gino Guidugli who put up 141-yards and a score. The two Mustang signal callers combined for three interceptions including the two Cleveland pick-sixes. Dwyane Elay led Milwaukee receivers with 98-yards on 9 catches.
The Gladiators 7-8 record makes things look somewhat better coming down the final stretch of three games as the postseason inches closer. Cleveland currently on the outside looking in. Their next game takes them to Orlando next Friday for a showdown with the Predators who fell to Cleveland 41-24 back on April 8th.
Coach Thonn ended his time after the game with a look forward. “The guys are just talking already about next week… if we just play well, we know we can win all three games.”
Follow Chris Fillar on Twitter: @ItsFillar