Gladiators Open Season Against Storm
Tonight, the Cleveland Gladiators kick off Week 1 of the 2017 AFL season vs. the Tampa Bay Storm at Quicken Loans Arena in the first of four meetings between the two teams this year. The Gladiators will travel to Amalie Arena in Tampa, FL for a Week 3 showdown vs. the Storm on Saturday, April 22nd and a Week 16 clash on Saturday, July 22nd. Cleveland will host the Storm at The Q for the second and final time in Week 14 on Saturday, July 8th. The game can be viewed live on clevelandgladiators.com , arenafootball.com, and heard on 92.3 The FAN.
LAST TIME OUT
Last season, the Gladiators posted a 2-0 regular-season record vs. the Storm and a 1-0 record vs. Tampa Bay at home. Cleveland defeated the Storm in front of 11,892 fans at The Q by a final score of 41-29 on April 9, 2016 in Week 2 of the 2016 season before surpassing Tampa Bay by a final score of 70-63 on the road in Week 8 on May 23, 2016.
WHO TO WATCH: GLADIATORS
In 2017, the Gladiators’ re-made roster will be led by a pair of newcomers at the QB position in fifth-year AFL veteran Shane Boyd, the Arizona Rattlers’ backup signal-caller the past two seasons, and former CFL QB Tanner Marsh, formerly of the Montreal Alouettes. Cleveland’s receiving corps will be highlighted by reigning AFL Playmaker of the Year and former Orlando Predator Brandon Thompkins, the AFL’s league-leader last season in return yards (1,775) and return touchdowns (6) and a top-five performer league-wide in terms of receiving yards (1,630, 3rd) and receiving touchdowns (38, T4th). Cleveland’s top two receivers from a season ago also return for 2017, as Collin Taylor, the AFL’s reigning Al Lucas AFL Hero Jason Foundation Award winner, and Quentin Sims are back in the fold for the Gladiators under first-year Head Coach Ron Selesky.
WHO TO WATCH: STORM
New Tampa Bay Head Coach Ron James, the 2012 AFL Head Coach of the Year most recently with the now-disbanded Portland Steel, turns to a re-configured Storm offense this season, led by fifth-year QB Randy Hippeard, formerly of the Orlando Predators. Hippeard’s top passing option this season will undoubtedly be former Jacksonville Sharks WR Joe Hills, the AFL’s reigning Under Armour Offensive Player of the Year. Last season, Hills led the league in receptions (161), receiving yards (2,020) and receiving touchdowns (58).