Despite being outscored in just one of four quarters, the Cleveland Gladiators (2-12) fell to the Eastern Division-leading Philadelphia Soul (9-5) by a 66-57 score Saturday night at Quicken Loans Arena. With the loss, the Gladiators end the two-game season series against the Soul with a 1-1 split. Carlese Franklin led the Gladiators with 155 receiving yards and a pair of touchdown catches. Chris Dieker threw for 339 yards on 27-of-41 passing and was intercepted just once.
After Philadelphia jumped out to a 7-0 lead on their first possession- which was capped off by a three-yard Derrick Ross touchdown run- the Gladiators needed just one play to tie the game. Dieker found Franklin open up the left side for a 42-yard touchdown pass. Philadelphia took a 21-7 lead into the end of the first quarter, as they answered with touchdown catches from Andrae Thurman and Ryan McDaniel.
On the Gladiators first two drives of the second quarter, Dieker had two of his three touchdown runs in the game. With 12:31 left in the quarter, he scampered in from 21 yards, and just 2:17 later, he plunged into the end zone from two yards. After his pair of second quarter rushing touchdowns, Philadelphia's lead had shrunk to 21-20.
Before halftime, the Soul managed to find the end zone three more times, but in the midst of that, Gladiators receiver Dominick Goodman managed to make his biggest play of the game. Goodman caught a pass over the middle from Dieker, and broke tackles for 20 yards to cap off a 35-yard touchdown reception with 4:38 remaining in the half. At halftime, Philadelphia held a 42-30 lead; Gladiators kicker Aaron Pettrey managed a 35-yard field goal as the first half expired to pull his team to within 12 points.
Each team found the end zone just once in the third quarter. Franklin pulled the Gladiators to within five points- the closest they would get all night- when he reeled in a six-yard touchdown pass from Dieker with 7:25 left in the third quarter. Just 50 seconds later, Philadelphia answered the play on a 55-yard kickoff return for a touchdown by Thurman, which gave the Soul a 49-37 lead through three quarters.
The Gladiators outscored Philadelphia 20-17 in the fourth quarter on the strength of two Cody Pearcy touchdown catches, but were unable to completely erase the deficit. Pearcy's touchdown catches were his first two of the season, and came from 12 yards and seven yards.
The Gladiators host division rival Pittsburgh Power next Saturday at 7:00 PM at Quicken Loans Arena.
NOTES: Dominick Goodman entered the game ranked third in the AFL, averaging 9.08 catches per game; he finished the loss to Philadelphia with a team-high 11 catches for 113 yards and a touchdown... With the 113 yard performance, Goodman now has 1,022 receiving yards on the season... In his last three games, Franklin has two touchdowns in each game; of the six touchdowns in the last three games, five are receptions and one was a kickoff return... With five touchdown passes and an interception, Dieker's touchdown-to-interception ratio this season is 27-7... LaRoche Jackson led the Gladiators with 11 total tackles in the game, including one for a loss of yardage, while Brandon Anderson chipped in eight total tackles.