The Cleveland Gladiators defeated the Jacksonville Sharks 48-47 on Saturday in Jacksonville Veterans Memorial Arena in Jacksonville, FL. The Gladiators swept the Sharks in the season series, have won six of their past eight games, are now 7-6 on the year and remain alone in second place in the National Conference.
QB Arvell Nelson and WR Collin Taylor opened the game by connecting on a seven-yard touchdown early in the first quarter before Jacksonville QB Tommy Grady threw a 42-yard bomb TD pass into the hands of Sharks WR Joe Hills on the next possession to tie the game. A one-yard Nelson rush made it 13-7 Gladiators, the Sharks tied the game on a four-yard TD pass from Grady to Hills at the start of the second quarter.
Cleveland DB Joe Phinisee returned a fumble by Grady for the Gladiators ninth defensive score of the season on a second quarter Jacksonville possession which is first in the AFL and led 20-13 before a 33-yard Nelson-to-Taylor score with 41 seconds remaining in the half making the score 27-13. The catch was Taylor’s 400th career AFL grab and 100th career AFL TD catch.
The Sharks came out on fire and scored 27 straight points to take a 40-27 lead before Nelson and Devin Wilson hooked up for a 12-yard score early in the fourth quarter to make it 40-34 until Jacksonville WR London Crawford found the end zone on a one-yard TD run that made it 47-34. With time winding down in the fourth quarter, Nelson and Wilson struck again, this time for a 25-yard bomb with less than six minutes left to draw within one score at 47-41.
With just 47 seconds left in the game, Nelson and Wilson combined for Wilson’s third TD grab of the game to put the Gladiators on top 48-47, but left Grady and Jacksonville with plenty of time to end this game on their terms. After the Sharks marched all the way to the Cleveland two-yard line on the ensuing possession, Phinisee sealed the win with his second fumble recovery of the game with just ten seconds left to play to deliver the Gladiators a one-point victory.
Next up for the Gladiators is the Philadelphia Soul at the PPL Center in Allentown, PA on Saturday, July 9th at 6:00 pm.