CLEVELAND (92.3 the Fan) – What is a proverb of outdoor football is closer to a universal truth in the game of Arena Football: whoever turns the ball over the least, wins.
On Friday night, that team was the Cleveland Gladiators, topping the Baltimore Brigade, 59-48, behind three interceptions of Shane Carden. The Gladiators have now won two of their last three, extending their record to 3-7.
“Defense did a great job to help us out,” Head Coach Ron Selesky said. “We had some missed extra points, so getting those stops early on and us being able to capitalize on them obviously widens that margin and hopefully helps us.”
Before any of the interceptions, with a 7-0 lead already, Daryl Cato-Bishop came up with a strip-sack of Carden on 4th-and-3, setting up a 1-yard touchdown run from QB Arvell Nelson.
The team held on to that two-score lead for the majority of the game, extending it further when they scored three straight touchdowns off of interceptions in the 3rd quarter.
Nelson looked comfortable all game, not making any mistakes, other than a fumble that may have been caused by being too at ease in the pocket. The quarterback lauded the effort from his line, but also gave credit to the defense.
“It was big,” he said. “This is a team sport. The offense relies on the defense, the defense relies on the offense. It was huge.”
Comfortability with the lead was never in play because of the game’s high-pace, offense-heavy style, and the quarterback acknowledged that his team never took their foot off the proverbial gas pedal.
“It feels good, but at the same time, this is Arena Football,” Nelson said. “A 20-point cushion is nothing. Outdoor football, you might be safe, but out here you might need to be up 40, 50 to be comfortable. So we just wanted to keep that ‘finish’ mentality.”
Selesky said their defensive success was not as much a product of their gameplan as much as it was a demonstration of what the coaching staff instructs.
“It was just guys doing what we practice, being in the right place at the right time and executing.” he said.
The four takeaways allowed the Gladiators to hold over 37 minutes of possession, a full quarter’s worth more than their opposition. The home team also limited Baltimore to 1-of-3 on 3rd downs, and 0-for-1 on 4th down.
Nelson again added to his team’s effort as a dual threat, turning in a 21-of-32 night through the air for 258 yards, 7 touchdowns and no interceptions. He also rushed eight times for 17 yards and two scores.
He remained humble in victory.
“I just hit the open man, it wasn’t anything spectacular,” he said.
After a bye week and four weeks on the road, the Gladiators remain at home when they take on the Philadelphia Soul on Saturday, June 24th. It will be the fourth and final meeting between the rivals, with the Soul winning all three prior matchups and entering Week 11 undefeated at 8-0.