Gladiators Sweep Season Series With Comeback Win Over Sharks

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Thanks to six total touchdowns from QB Arvell Nelson, five combined touchdown receptions from WR’s Collin Taylor and Devin Wilson and three turnovers forced by their defense, the Cleveland Gladiators defeated the Jacksonville Sharks by a final score of 48-47 on Saturday at Jacksonville Veterans Memorial Arena in Jacksonville, FL. With the win, the Gladiators swept the Sharks in the two-game season series between the teams, have won six of their past eight games, are now 7-6 on the year and remain alone in second place in the AFL’s National Conference standings.

Nelson and Taylor opened the scoring by connecting on a seven-yard touchdown strike early in the first quarter before Jacksonville QB Tommy Grady sailed a 42-yard TD pass into the hands of Sharks WR Joe Hills on the ensuing possession to tie the game at seven. After a one-yard Nelson rush made it 13-7 Gladiators, the Sharks tied the game on a four-yard TD pass from Grady to Hills at the start of the second quarter.

Cleveland DB Joe Phinisee returned a fumble by Grady for the Gladiators’ league-best ninth defensive score of the season on the ensuing Jacksonville possession and led 20-13 before a 33-yard Nelson-to-Taylor scoring strike with 41 seconds remaining in the half gave Cleveland their largest lead at 27-13. The touchdown was Indiana native’s 100th career AFL TD catch. He also caught his 400th career reception earlier in the game.

The Sharks proceeded to rattle off 27 straight points to take a 40-27 lead before Nelson and Devin Wilson hooked up for a 12-yard score early in the fourth quarter to make it 40-34. Jacksonville WR London Crawford found the end zone on a one-yard TD run that made it 47-34 with less than eight minutes remaining in the game. With time winding down in the fourth quarter, Nelson and Wilson struck again, this time for a 25-yard bomb with less than six minutes left to draw within one score at 47-41.

Then, with just 47 seconds left in regulation, Nelson and Wilson combined for Wilson’s third TD grab of the game, a four-yard connection, to put the Gladiators on top 48-47, but left former AFL MVP Grady and Jacksonville with plenty of time with which to work. After the Sharks marched all the way to the Cleveland two-yard line on the ensuing possession, Phinisee iced the win with his second fumble recovery of the game with just 10 seconds left to play to deliver the Gladiators a one-point victory.

Following a Week 14 bye, next up for the Gladiators, it’s a Week 15 road clash vs. the Philadelphia Soul with full coverage, live from the PPL Center in Allentown, PA, underway on Saturday, July 9th at 6:00 pm on 92.3 The Fan.

Post-Game awards:

Under Armour Offensive Player of the Game: Jacksonville WR Joe Hills – 14 rec., 157 yds., 5 TDs

Riddell Defensive Player of the Game: Cleveland DB Joe Phinisee – 2 fumble recoveries, 1 fumble return for TD

J. Lewis Small Playmaker of the Game: Cleveland WR Collin Taylor – 8 rec., 134 yds., 2 TDs

Cutters Catch of the Game: Cleveland WR Collin Taylor – 33-yard TD catch with 41 seconds remaining in the second quarter – Taylor’s 400th career AFL reception and 100th career AFL TD grab.

AFL Highlight of the Game: Cleveland DB Joe Phinisee – game-saving fumble recovery on his own two-yard line with ten seconds remaining in regulation.