Story courtesy of the Cleveland Gladiators
ORLANDO, Fla. – The Cleveland Gladiators fell on Saturday night to the Orlando Predators on a late field goal, 59-56.
With the loss the Gladiators record drops to 5-6 on the season where they remain in second place in the National Conference. Quarterback Arvell Nelson threw for 296 yards and eight touchdowns in the loss, with wide receiver Quentin Sims catching eight passes for 108 yards and four touchdowns. Predators quarterback Randy Hippeard threw for 316 yards and four scores and ran in two more touchdowns in the win, with wide receivers Brandon Thompkins and Greg Carr each catching two scores.
Orlando jumped out to a quick 7-0 lead after a one-yard touchdown run from Hippeard. Then, following a Gladiators turnover, a 26-yard touchdown pass from Hippeard to wide receiver Brandon Thompkins gave the Predators an early 14-0 advantage. Cleveland got on the board on the first play of the next drive when Nelson found wide receiver Larry Beavers for a 37-yard touchdown to pull to 14-7. The Predators answered right back, scoring on the first play of their next possession, a 32-yard strike from Hippeard to Thompkins, extending the Orlando lead to 21-7.
In the second quarter, Nelson connected with wide receiver Devin Wilson on fourth down for a 14-yard touchdown, closing the gap to 21-14. The Predators answered when Hippeard rushed for his second touchdown of the night, a 11-yarder to push their lead to 28-14. Nelson and the Gladiators followed suit when Nelson found wide receiver Quentin Sims for a six-yard touchdown, once again shrinking the Orlando lead to 28-21. However, just before halftime, Hippeard would hit wide receiver Greg Carr for a two-yard touchdown, sending the Predators to a 35-21 lead at the break.
The Gladiators offense got off to a fast start in the second half when Nelson found wide receiver Collin Taylor for a 33-yard touchdown, trimming the Orlando lead to 35-28. After the Cleveland defense recovered an Orlando fumble, the Gladiators were able to capitalize with a four-yard touchdown reception by Sims to tie the game at 35-35. Sims’ score was the 300,000th point in AFL history, but the Predators would go into the fourth quarter with a 42-35 advantage after fullback John Martinez crossed the goal line with a 1-yard run just before the end of the frame.
Similar to the previous quarter, Cleveland struck quickly when Nelson hit Sims on a 37-yard touchdown pass. Orlando responded when wide receiver Greg Carr caught a touchdown from Hippeard, giving the Predators a 49-42 lead. Sims continued to light up the scoreboard, as Nelson found him with a 30-yard touchdown pass to even the game with 3:44 remaining. The Predators regained the lead after Martinez punched in his second 1-yard rushing touchdown to put Orlando ahead 56-49 in the final minute of play. After a failed onside kick by Orlando, the Gladiators successfully knotted the game on a 4-yard touchdown completion to wide receiver Larry Beavers with 25 seconds left. In the next possession, Predators’ kicker Mark Lewis made a 23-yard field goal with just two seconds to go, as the Gladiators had one last chance to put points on the board. However, Nelson’s Hail Mary attempt was batted away in the end zone to make the final score 59-56.
Next up, the Gladiators travel to Portland to take on the Steel next Saturday, June 18th at 10:00 p.m. The game can be heard live on 92.3 The Fan.