#50YARDCOUNTDOWN: 11-Austin Finds Lewis to Cap Epic Comeback
When all is thought to be lost is the moment champions rise up.
DISTANCE: 11 yards
One minute is all that remained in the game, and the Cleveland Gladiators trailed the Philadelphia Soul 52-35 in front of 10,659 fans at Quicken Loans Arena. The game seemed to be over, but the fun was just beginning.
With the ball on the 19-yard line, Gladiators quarterback Shane Austin lobbed a beautiful pass over a Philadelphia defender to Thyron Lewis in the back of the end zone. That cut the lead to 52-42 with 51.7 seconds left.
Head coach Steve Thonn called for the onside kick to get the ball back. Kicker Aaron Pettrey booted the ball short to get a sky-high bounce. Gladiator receiver Dominick Goodman stayed wide near the wall and the high bounce allowed Goodman's teammates to throw blocks on the Soul return team. The distance of the kick was perfect. Goodman reached out his hands and caught the ball right at the 10-yard line to keep hopes alive for the Gladiators as 50.2 seconds remained.
After two completed passes to receiver Tyrone Collins, Austin rewarded Goodman with a 4-yard touchdown pass to cut the lead to 52-48 with 24.2 seconds remained.
The Gladiators needed one more onside kick to have a chance. Pettrey kicked it with the same high bounce, but the Soul keyed on Goodman. The ball came down behind the Soul return team, and, with the ball bouncing on the turf and a scrum of bodies, Gladiators defensive lineman Luke Black stood up with the ball in his hand and excitedly spiked it into the turf. 20.4 seconds remained as the Gladiators offense went to work once again.
After three completions from Austin, including a 15-yarder to Collin Taylor on 4th-and-5, the ball was on the 11-yard line with 0.8 seconds left. One play left to try and complete what previously seemed to be an insurmountable comeback.
Austin put Taylor in motion and took the snap, the Soul defense rushed four defenders, but two of them tripped over each other. The four defensive backs had the Gladiator receivers covered. Austin bought himself time by shuffling backward then rolling right. A great block from Kitt O'Brien gave him the three extra steps necessary to lob a pass to Lewis at the goal line. The pass was far enough to cross the goal line and short enough to make sure Lewis, who had two defenders draped on his back, could catch it diving forward.
Lewis secured the ball into his chest as soon as it came in. The side judges put their hands in the air to signal the touchdown, and one of the greatest comebacks in league history was complete. The Gladiators remained undefeated with a remarkable 54-52 victory. Relive the amazing comeback in the video below.