06/10/2010 8:40 AM
Iron QB Chris Greisen leads the AFL with 63 touchdown passes and 3,031 yards. (Photo courtesy of Milwaukee Iron)
By Pete Honsberger, clevelandgladiators.com
The Cleveland Gladiators look to reach the .500 plateau as they head north to battle the 6-3 Milwaukee Iron in a Midwest Division matchup with possible playoff implications.
Despite a 68-67 overtime loss to the Arizona Rattlers last Saturday, the Iron remain in a tie for first place in the Midwest Division. With their victory over Utah, the Gladiators, 4-5, jumped over the Iowa Barnstormers for third place in the Midwest. Cleveland trails Milwaukee by two games with seven left to play.
Saturday’s game will feature two of the most potent offenses in AFL. Led by quarterback Chris Greisen, Milwaukee is tops in the league in yards per game (356.2), passing touchdowns (63), fewest interceptions (4), and is second in scoring (65.4). The Gladiators counter with quarterback John Dutton and wide receiver Ben Nelson, whose connection has helped Cleveland’s offense rank third in yards per game (336.2), and fifth in passing touchdowns (56) and scoring (60).
The Greisen/Dutton duel will likely be a key to victory for both teams. Greisen has scorched defenses all season, completing 229-of-344 passes for 3,031 yards, 63 touchdowns and only four interceptions. Dutton has not been far behind, competing 66% of his passes for 2903 yards and 54 touchdowns.
Ben Nelson and Chris Johnson are second and fourth, respectively, in the AFL in receptions, combining for 170 catches and 1,997 yards. Nelson leads the league with 31 touchdowns. Nate Forse and Tiger Jones comprise the toughest receiving tandem that the Gladiators will have seen thus far in 2010. They have teamed up with Greisen to produce 159 catches for 2,138 yards and 45 total touchdowns.
Cleveland will call upon defensive backs Carlos Campbell and Davion Mitchell, who each recorded an interception versus Utah, to slow down the Iron. Linebacker Tim Cheatwood will look to pick up where he left off Friday night, when he scooped up three Utah fumbles and returned one for a touchdown, to go along with a sack. Milwaukee’s Tyus Jackson and Khreem Smith are the league leaders in sacks with six and five, respectively.
With a win, the Gladiators would improve to 5-5, and would trail the Iron by a single game in the Midwest Division standings. Round two of this matchup will be at Quicken Loans Arena on July 31 at 7:00 PM.