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Key Fumble Recovery Leads To Victory

By: Phil Tesar
05/19/2008 7:31 AM -
The Cleveland Gladiators avenged a Week 7 loss to the Colorado Crush on Saturday night in Denver with a 50-46 win over John Elway’s club. It may not take the sting away from the Drive and the Fumble – but Bernie Kosar finally got one over on Elway.
“It may take multiple wins to get rid of those demons,” Kosar said earlier in the year. Well, Saturday night was a start.
With the Gladiators leading 34-31 at the start of the fourth quarter and the Crush at the Cleveland two, Karon Riley came up big defensively, stifling the Crush drive and saving a potential go-ahead touchdown.
Colorado wide receiver Chad Owens took a handoff from quarterback John Dutton and headed to the left of center. He left the ground in an attempt to cross the goal line in the air, when Riley stepped in.
Reaching in for the ball, Riley poked it loose and Owens lost control before hitting the ground. Instinctively, Riley corralled the ball in the endzone for a touchback, preventing the score.
Jason Ball kicked a 22-yard field goal on the ensuing drive, opening the Gladiators lead to 37-31 with just 10 minutes to play in the game.
Dutton responded with a six-yard pass to Brian Nelson with 8:26 left to play, giving the Crush their second lead of the game - 38-37.
Cleveland wasted little time when Raymond Philyaw found former Crush, and fan favorite, Willis Marshall on an eight-yard strike. Philyaw’s two-point conversion pass fell incomplete and the Gladiators led 43-38.
The Crush had the Gladiators right where they wanted them. Needing a touchdown to win and what looked to be the final possession of the game, Colorado needed to gain positive yards and watch the clock dwindle down to nothing.
With 48 seconds left and the Crush on the Gladiators 17-yard line, Dutton handed the ball to fullback Chris Watton. As Watton bulled through the Gladiators front three, Joe Minucci reached in and stripped the ball and watched it squirt back towards Dutton.
St. Edward High School standout Alphonso Hodge jumped on the ball at the Gladiators 24-yard line. The second fumble recovery of the fourth quarter proved to be the biggest, as Philyaw found Otis Amey for a touchdown pass two plays later, all-but sealing the victory.
A meaningless touchdown by the Crush with no time left on the clock closed the scoring, 50-46.
The Gladiators next travel to the Sunshine State as they visit the Tampa Bay Storm this Friday. Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m. and can be heard on ESPN 850 WKNR – Mike Case has the call!

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