It’s fan appreciation night at Quicken Loans Arena for the Cleveland faithful Friday night as the streaking Gladiators (5-4) take on the conference leading Arizona Rattlers (6-3) for sole possession of first place in the National Conference.
Cleveland is coming off of an impressive and long awaited 63-49 victory over long time rivals in the Philadelphia Soul and riding an four game winning streak and Arizona is coming off an embarrassing loss against the Tampa Bay Storm who notched their first win of the season. Cleveland has developed a bit of a rivalry in 2014 when both teams met in the ArenaBowl. The Rattlers went on to crush the Gladiators because of QB Nick Davila and the shut down defense that stopped the high scoring and come from behind offense that Cleveland used all year to either blow teams out or come from behind to win. The two teams met again in 2015 in week two and although this game was much closer, Arizona knew exactly how to stop Cleveland when it mattered.
With teams leaving the league for the IFL or due to incompetent ownership, Arizona and Cleveland were put in the new National Conference for the first time ever and it should bring nothing but joy to the hardcore fan knowing that arguably two of the best teams in the entire league for the past three seasons now get to see each other twice a year and a possibility to play once more in the playoffs.
Players to watch on the Gladiators will be none other than the mobile but gun slinging QB Arvell Nelson. Against this dreaded Arizona defense, Nelson needs to have almost a perfect game. He has shown week after week that he is improving as a passer and making better decisions and limiting turnovers in crucial situations. The dynamic duo of Collin Taylor and Quentin Sims should prove to be a hassle though. The two have combined for 31 of the teams 49 total touchdowns. Arizona has a Hall Of Famer in QB Nick Davila at the helm. He’s on every team in the leagues player to watch list. He’s passed for 59 touchdowns and has a 125 QBR. WR Rod Windsor is leading the league in receiving with 90 receptions for 1,095 yards and 26 touchdowns, which is second in the league.