Last week the Gladiators lost a heartbreaker to Kansas City. Tonight was a night of redemption as Cleveland (8-6) defeated San Jose 82-21. As the playoffs draw closer, a win like this is sure to give the Gladiators the momentum they need to power their way through the rest of the schedule. This margin of victory was second highest in Arena Football history. The Gladiators were two points away from claiming a new record.
New quarterback Andrico Hines started the game. He completed eight of 15 passes for 102 yards and two touchdowns. He injured his knee and did not return to the game. Kurt Rocco took over the show from there and took no prisoners tonight. He completed 18 of 20 passes for 235 yards and seven touchdowns.
Rocco said, “I wasn’t expecting to play.” “I was ready to play, I got in there, I knew that i’ve been in before, I’ve been in this situation before.”
Head Coach Steve Thonn does not know the status of Hines’ injury. He also commented on the importance of the win in terms of the playoff push. ” It is (important) because we only got five games left.” We wanted to get to 8-6 before those three (division) games.” “We haven’t played well the road.” “That was kind of the start of the playoff push.”
Thonn also commented on the performance of defense saying, “I think we’re more physical at home.” “I think we take teams out of their comfort zone when they come to our place.” Thonn said the defense needs to do that on the road.
The Gladiators have proven they are almost unbeatable at home, winning six of seven games at Quicken Loans Arena. They continue to feed off the energy of the home crowd. Now they need to figure out a way to battle the wolves on the road.
Troy Bergeron could not be contained. He tore up the Sabercat defense with ten receptions for 136 yards and five touchdowns. Bergeron commented on Rocco’s passing saying, “Really efficient, I looked up one time and I saw Rocco was 18 for 19, six touchdowns, you can’t get any more efficient than that.” ” We had a good game plan this week.” When asked how big of a morale boast this was, Bergeron said, “We needed it, we know we play well at home, San Jose is a lot better team than what their record shows.” “We have to win games on the road to make the playoffs.”
Levy Brown and Joe Phinesee both had interceptions returned for touchdowns. Connor Reilly recovered a kickoff for a touchdown with 1.5 seconds left to go in the first half. The Gladiators scored a total of 21 points in the last minute of the second quarter to break things wide open. They were in control after that.
The only criticism that needs to made is Matt Denny’s lackluster kicking performance. He struggled with extra points. He did a nice job with kickoffs though.
The Gladiators have two more road tests against division opponents Milwaukee on July 2 and Philadelphia on July 8. They face Pittsburgh on July 15 and Utah on July 22 at home.