By Spencer Lee
PHILADELPHIA, Pa. — Arena Football is an unforgiving game. The high volume of scoring means one offensive mistake will have you playing from behind for the rest of the game.
On Saturday, that mistake occurred in the first quarter for the Cleveland Gladiators (1-5). Trailing the (6-0) Philadelphia Soul 7-0 after quarterback Dan Raudabaugh led a scoring drive on Philly’s first offensive possession, Cleveland quarterback Arvell Nelson’s pass was intercepted by AFL veteran defensive back James Romain. The turnover set up Raudabaugh for his second touchdown pass of the game to Ryan McDaniel to put the defending ArenaBowl champions up 14-0 at the end of the first quarter.
The Gladiators would play from behind for the rest of the game and fall 64-46 in the end for their second straight loss.
The bitter rival Soul continued to pour on the points after the fast start when linebacker Joe Goosby intercepted two Nelson passes on Cleveland’s last drive of the first half to go up 34-13 and first drive of the second half to go up 42-13, their largest lead of the night. Raudabaugh was instrumental, carving the Gladiators secondary by spreading the ball around to Darius Reynolds and Shaun Kauleinamoku for scores three times apiece and eight passing touchdowns in total on only 176 yards.
Cleveland forged another valiant comeback in the second half, cutting Philadelphia’s lead to as little as 16, thanks to Nelson bouncing back with 282 yards passing and six touchdowns, four of which went to Larry Brackins for his only four receptions of the game. The other two went to rising star Quentin Sims, who finished the night with 10 receptions for 100 yards and two touchdowns. Reigning AFL Playmaker of the Year Brandon Thompkins opened the Gladiators scoring with a kick return for a touchdown for the second game in a row.
The Gladiators remain on the road with a trip to Baltimore next Saturday, May 27th. The Brigade won the first meeting at Quicken Loans Arena 52-48 back on April 16th.