In the final regular season home game for the Gladiators, the offense was impressive but the Arizona Rattlers defense was just too much as Cleveland, now 5-5, fell to Arizona, now 7-3, in a 77-62 loss. Arizona is still the conference leader this week.
Arizona won the opening coin toss and chose to defer to let Cleveland have the first crack at the end zone. QB Arvell Nelson started off by driving down to the Arizona 17-yard line and finding Collin Taylor for the touchdown for the early 7-0 score. Taylor is now at 26 consecutive games with a receiving touchdown. The Rattlers are known for scoring quick and often so it didn’t take them long to find the end zone. A facemask penalty on Cleveland helped Arizona QB Nick Davila find Rod Windsor for the 22-yard score. The Gladiators second drive didn’t go as smooth as the first. Nelson was rushed by the big Arizona defensive line and had to improvise and use his legs to avoid getting sacked. Thanks to a defensive pass interference call on Arizona, Cleveland was in striking distance and they took advantage of the penalty as Quentin Sims scored on diving two yard catch in the back of the end zone to put the Gladiators up 14-7 at the end of the first quarter.
Although Cleveland put some pressure on Davila and Melvin Ross breaking up two passes, Maurice Purify was wide open on the left wall of the end zone and easily caught the 17-yard touchdown to start off the second quarter. You can tell that Nelson had trouble facing the Arizona defensive line. Almost every throw he made was a bit too high because he would have someone in his face. Another pass interference call helped Cleveland drive down the field and Nelson saw that Devin Wilson lost his defender and connected with him for a 22-yard touchdown. Arizona started their next drive on their own three-yard line and drove all the way down to the Cleveland two-yard line to eventually score.
A failed onside kick by Arizona gave Cleveland the ball at the eight-yard line and it only took one quick pass to Sims in the middle of the end zone to get the quick score and lead again. On the first play of Arizona’s next drive, Davila launched a 32-yard throw to Chase Deadder for the fast score. Another failed onside kick led to another Gladiators score. An odd call by Coach Steve Thonn to try an onside kick of their own with the lead and only 50 seconds left in the half gave Arizona the ball again and Davila connected with Windsor again for the touchdown and with the Gladiators missing the PAT after their last score, Arizona was up by one point. Yet another failed onside kick by Arizona, another odd call, gave Nelson the ball at the 12-yard line and threw a ball that was tipped but went right into Sims’ hands and put Cleveland back on top but end the half down by one with the score 42-41.
With the Rattlers getting the ball back at the half, the Gladiators needed to pull out some defensive magic and get a stop so they could have a chance to catch up. Things didn’t go as planned as Arizona stormed down the field and added on to the score with a 19-yard touchdown to Purify. Cleveland gets the ball back and starts off well but couldn’t covert and ended up turning the ball over on downs and giving the ball to Arizona in Cleveland territory. Just when it looked ugly for the Gladiators, a big defensive effort along with an offensive false start penalty helped stopped the Rattler drive and turned the ball over on downs. The momentum from the defense carried over as Nelson found Taylor for his second touchdown of the game to bring the game within one again. A 16-yard toss to Windsor for the touchdown keeps the pressure on Cleveland to catch up. On the kick return from Arizona, Larry Beavers was hit from both sides and fumbled the ball as Arizona recovered to end the third quarter.
Cleveland found themselves in an even bigger hole at the beginning of the fourth quarter as Arizona’s Mykel Benson ran the ball in from the six-yard line making the score 63-48. The wheels seemed to come off after that point. Arizona really brought the pressure to Arvell and made him throw the ball too high and too hard. Cleveland once again turned it over on downs and Arizona took advantage of the turnover and another Benson touchdown put the Rattlers up by 22 points. What looked like a possible touchdown pass to Collin Taylor was ruled out of bounds at the 17-yard line of Arizona. Cleveland tried to challenge the play but it was non reviewable and was charged a time out but Cleveland scored anyway when Nelson tossed the ball to Beavers for a four-yard rush. This couldn’t overcome the offensive power that Arizona is capable of putting up as it was just too much for the defense to handle. Arizona goes on to win 77-62. Cleveland travels to Orlando next week to take on the Predators.
STATS: Arvell Nelson 21-38 for 230 yards and 7 TD. Quentin Sims 11 catches for 84 yards and 3 TD.
Nick Davila 23-33 for 289 yards and 9 TD. Rod Windsor 8 catches for 86 yards and 4 TD