Gladiators Fall To Orlando, 65-58

Collin Taylor registered four receiving touchdowns for the Cleveland Gladiators (7-9), but the Orlando Predators (10-6) topped the Gladiators 65-58 Saturday night at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland.  The loss marks the fourth straight for the Gladiators, as Orlando took the three-game season series two games to one.  The Gladiators have a bye next week, and are back in action on Saturday, August 1st when they welcome the Spokane Shock to The Q.

The Gladiators scored on their first drive, as quarterback Shane Austin plunged into the end zone from a yard out for the first of his two rushing touchdowns in the game.  After taking a 7-0 lead with 10:03 left in the first quarter, Orlando responded as Larry Brackins caught the first of his four touchdowns with 5:47 left in the first quarter to even the score at 7-7.  On the ensuing kickoff, Orlando’s LaMark Brown recovered a bouncing ball off the iron for a touchdown, leading to a Predators 14-7 lead with 4:15 left in the opening quarter.  The Gladiators tied the game at 14-14 with 3:17 left in the first quarter on a 12-yard pass from Austin to Taylor, who finished the game with nine catches and 95 yards. 
 
Trading touchdowns throughout the second quarter, the teams ventured deeply into the final minute of the first half before each kicker was put to the test.  Orlando took a 31-28 lead on a 21-yard field goal by Mark Lewis with 16 seconds left in the half, but the Gladiators were able to tie the game at 31-31 before halftime on a 35-yard boot by Adrian Trevino.
 
Orlando received the opening kickoff in the second half, and immediately regained the lead on a 13-yard touchdown pass from Hippeard to Brown 1:49 into the third quarter.  With the Predators leading 38-31, Orlando’s Nick Taylor intercepted a deflected pass on the ensuing Gladiators possession.  The Gladiators forced Orlando to fourth down and 10, but Hippeard found Brackins for a 21-yard touchdown pass to give the Predators a 45-31 lead with 7:33 left in the third quarter.
 
The Gladiators erased the deficit, tying the game at 45-45 with back-to-back touchdowns.  Austin connected with Amarri Jackson on a nine-yard touchdown pass with 2:37 left in the third quarter to help the Gladiators pull to within seven, and after a Devon Dace interception, the Gladiators tied the game at 45-45 just 41 seconds into the fourth quarter on an 11-yard touchdown hookup from Austin to Taylor.  Orlando responded by scoring back-to-back touchdowns four minutes apart to take a 58-35 lead.  With 11:05 left in the fourth, Hippeard connected with Brackins to give the Predators a seven-point lead.  Shortly after, Gladiators quarterback Shane Austin was stripped and Orlando jack linebacker Terence Moore returned the fumble for a touchdown.  The Gladiators foiled the extra point and trailed by 13 points with 7:05 remaining. 
 
Cleveland added two more touchdowns, one on an Austin run and one on a Dominick Goodman catch, but a fourth touchdown pass from Hippeard to Brackins with 50 seconds left ultimately made Orlando’s lead too great to overcome, as the Predators held on for a 65-58 win.
 
The Gladiators host Spokane Saturday, August 1st at 7:00 p.m.  The game airs live on 92.3 The Fan.
 
NOTES: Taylor has a team-leading and career-high 36 touchdown catches on the season… Austin has 93 touchdown passes with two games remaining; he finished with 99 last season… Goodman led the Gladiators with 12 catches; he totaled 95 receiving yards in the game… Taylor surpassed 1,300 receiving yards in the loss… Dace’s interception was his first as a Gladiator; he debuted for Cleveland on July 11th in Philadelphia… Follow the Gladiators on Twitter @CLEGladiators, on Facebook at www.facebook.com/clevelandgladiators, and on Instagram at www.instagram.com/clevelandgladiators.