04/17/2011 6:48 PM
Woodard Photography - Aaron Josefczyk
The New Orleans VooDoo proved to be too much for the Cleveland Gladiators Saturday night, as they beat the Gladiators 34-33 in front of 7,123 fans at Quicken Loans Arena in a nail-biting loss. With the loss, the Gladiators dropped to 3-1 on the season. The VooDoo won their first game of the season to improve to 1-4.
The loss should be familiar to Gladiator fans. In both 2008 and this season, Cleveland started 3-0, but New Orleans was responsible for handing the Glads their first defeat each time.
The Gladiator running game was a big boost, as they had four out of their five touchdowns on the ground. Leading the way was fullback Russ Monk, who ran the ball four times for eight yards and three touchdowns. Their other rushing touchdown came by quarterback Kurt Rocco.
Rocco had a decent day through the air as he went 19-of-31 for 217 yards and one touchdown pass to wide receiver Troy Bergeron. Unfortunately, Rocco also had two interceptions with one of them coming late in the fourth quarter.
“I didn’t play well this entire game,” said Rocco. “Our defense played well the entire game and put us in a good position, but we didn’t execute.”
The special teams unit played well for Cleveland. Robert Redd exploded for 127 yards in six kick return attempts. He also had one missed field goal
return, which resulted in a 12 yard gain. The unit also held New Orleans to only 31 total return yards.
The VooDoo would start the game by receiving the ball and jumped on the Gladiators early with two straight touchdowns in a total of 6:16 to make the score 14-0. The first would come from a two-yard run by fullback Tom Taggert, who recorded his first touchdown on the season with the play. The second would come as a six-yard run by quarterback Danny Wimprine, which was his first rushing touchdown of the season.
Cleveland quickly came alive, as they went for three straight touchdowns to make the score 20-14. Two of these were punched in by Monk, while the other was a pass from Rocco to wide receiver Troy Bergeron.
The two teams would each score a touchdown to end the half with a score of 26-20, Cleveland. The VooDoo got their touchdown by a 45-yard pass
from Wimprine to wide receiver Chris Wilson. The Gladiators got their touchdown with a 2-yard run by Monk.
The remainder of the game would be back and forth between the two teams. New Orleans would get two more touchdowns, while Cleveland only recorded one resulting in a loss of 34-33.
“It’s tough. It’s a tough pill to swallow,” said coach Steve Thonn. “It was a disappointing loss.”
Impressive performances for the VooDoo came by Wimprine who went 22-of-36 for 200 yards and four touchdowns (three passing, one rushing) en route to being named the Offensive Player of the Game.
Wimprine had his longest pass of the season in the second quarter with a 45-yard catch by Wilson. Wilson played well for New Orleans with four catches for 56 yards and one touchdown. Wide receiver Carle Franklin also had a good game receiving with seven caught passes for 57 yards, and one touchdown.
“We knew coming in that this team was a lot better than their record showed,” Thonn said. “They made some changes this week and were much improved. They really showed it tonight.”
Coming into the game, the Gladiators defense ranked third in the league in scoring defense (43.0) and fourth in total defense (264.0), and they would once again play well. The defense only allowed 34 points and 200 net yards by New Orleans in the game.
The defense also had four sacks, one interception, one fumble recovery, one interception and blocked one PAT attempt. Leading the way was Defensive Player of the Game Anthony Hoke, who had six tackles (five unassisted, two assisted), two sacks for 13 yards, one fumble forced and that blocked PAT.
Defensive back Levy Brown played well for the Glads, with 5.5 tackles (five unassisted, one assisted) and one interception. Defensive lineman Tim Cheatwood recorded two tackles (four assists), one sack for four yards and one fumble recovery.
The Gladiators look to get back on track against their American Conference rival Jacksonville Sharks at Jacksonville Veterans Memorial Arena on Saturday, April 23 at 7:00 p.m.