By Spencer Lee
TAMPA, Fla. — In the Arena Football League, the statistics fans look for in a game are points, passing yards and touchdowns. But only two weeks after the Cleveland Gladiators (4-9) played a near-perfect game and pulled off an unexpected two-point win in the home finale over the Tampa Bay Storm (10-3), the Storm defense avenged the loss with a 57-27 drubbing of the Gladiators in the rematch Saturday night, leaving Cleveland’s offense searching for answers.
Instead of those heralded points, yards and scoring statistics, Cleveland’s primary stat was five turnovers, including giving up two net recoveries on kickoffs and a lost fumble, an interception and a pick-six from quarterback Arvell Nelson.
In the second half alone, the Storm began their drives in Cleveland territory four times. Those mistakes made it easy for Storm quarterback Randy Hippeard to pad his league-leading stats. Hippeard finished the night 22-of-36 for 234 yards and six total touchdowns (one rushing). Storm receiver Joe Hills led all receivers with 10 catches for 121 yards and two touchdowns, extending his AFL record streak to 80 consecutive games with a receiving touchdown. Kendrick Ings added seven receptions for 82 yards and two more scores and LaMark Brown also caught a touchdown. Alvin Ray Jackson hauled in both of Nelson’s interceptions, including the pick-six, and recovered two fumbles.
The Gladiators offense, meanwhile, managed only two touchdowns all night with a passing touchdown and rushing touchdown from Arvell Nelson. The Glads defense matched that with two scores of their own, the first coming on an interception from defensive back Terence Moore, who lateraled to Marrio Norman for a 34-yard pick-six and the second coming on a strip sack and 25-yard return from defensive end Nick Seither. Nelson finished the night 11-of-19 for 142 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions. Michael Preston led the team with nine receptions for 98 yards and the aforementioned score.
The Gladiators are back on the road for the regular season finale against the Washington Valor, who are fresh off their 34-30 win over the Brigade over the weekend. With one more win, the Gladiators clinch a spot in the playoffs, which will begin on Aug. 12.