By: Matt Fontana
Facing must-win football, the Cleveland Gladiators made a statement as they begin the final stretch of play in 2012. With just four games to play, Cleveland needs wins to cement their playoff standings in the American Conference. The Gladiators started their final stretch of play with a big statement. Behind a strong defensive effort, Cleveland defeated the Milwaukee Mustangs (6-9), 69-32. The Gladiators snapped a five game losing streak.
Before stepping on the field, Cleveland’s offense had a lead. Thanks to an interception return for a touchdown and a fumble return for a touchdown, the Gladiators offense had a 13-0 cushion. From there, the offense picked right up where the defense and special teams left off. Cleveland scored touchdowns on three straight offensive drives to start the game.
Quarterback John Dutton and wide receiver Dominick Goodman once again were the focal points. Dutton finished 14/20 for 158 yards and four touchdowns. Goodman hauled in nine catches for 96 yards and two scores. Carlese Franklin had his best game as a Gladiator. He had 5 grabs for 62 yards and two scores. Robert Redd did not register a catch in the game. His streak of 16 straight games with a touchdown reception came to an end.
The story of the night was the Gladiators defense. Cleveland boasted one of its best defensive games of the season. Joe Phinisee had an interception and a fumble recovery for a touchdown in addition to three pass break ups. Not to be out done, Maurice Williams had a 50-yard interception return for a touchdown. It marks the third straight game with a touchdown for “Mo”. Dominic Jones added an interception which he lateralled to fellow defensive back Levy Brown who took it 22 yards for another score. To cap it off, defensive lineman Brian Brikowski had a fumble return for a touchdown on a Milwaukee fumbled kickoff return.
Following the game, Head Coach Steve Thonn said his team understands their situation “This was a playoff game for us, we gotta win. If we just play well, we know we can win all three games.” Coach also said the team seems to have gotten “it” all out of the system and are ready to move forward.
Following their win on Friday, Cleveland (7-8) trails Jacksonville (7-7) and New Orleans (7-7) for the final two wildcard playoff spots in the American Conference. Next up for the Glads, they travel to Orlando to face the Predators (2-12) on Friday July 6th.
· The win marks coach Thonn’s 50th as an AFL head coach. He is 50-75 in his 8th year.
· 32 points allowed is the second best for Cleveland in 2012. They allowed just 24 vs. Orlando in week five.
· The Gladiators three interception ties a season high
· Cleveland sweeps the Mustangs in the 2012 series. The Glads took game one, 69-48 in week 10. They are 4-2 overall against Milwaukee.
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