Shane Austin threw seven touchdown passes to propel the Cleveland Gladiators to a 56-46 victory over the Orlando Predators in Sunday's American Conference Championship Game, securing a berth for the Gladiators in ArenaBowl XXVII. A Quicken Loans Arena crowd of 14,543 witnessed the game. ArenaBowl XXVII will be played at The Q in Cleveland on Saturday, August 23 at 8:00 PM.
For ArenaBowl ticket information, go to www.clevelandgladiators.com, call 216-420-2222, or visit The Q box office or any Northern Ohio Discount Drug Mart.
Austin completed four-of-five passes on the Gladiators first drive of the game, which was capped off by a Thyron Lewis receiving touchdown from 10 yards 2:56 into the contest. Austin finished the game 22-32 through the air for 204 yards, and was not intercepted. The two teams traded touchdowns in the first quarter, as the frame finished in a 14-14 tie. After Dominick Goodman's 10-yard touchdown catch- his second touchdown of the game- with 12:35 left in the second quarter, the Gladiators took momentum in the form of the game's first defensive stop.
Orlando's offense began a drive at their own three-yard line, and moved the ball to the Gladiators one-yard line. On their first play from the one-yard line, a fumble on the snap was corralled by Gladiators defensive back Dominic Jones, who took the ball 48 yards back to the Orlando one-yard line. The fumble return set up a one-yard touchdown run for Jason Jones, which gave the Gladiators a 28-14 lead with 6:22 left in the first half. Goodman added his third and final touchdown of the game before the half ended, but Orlando's Larry Brackins scored twice in the final moments of the first half. At halftime, the Gladiators held a 35-28 advantage.
The defenses battled back-and-forth in the third quarter, with the Gladiators posting the only points of the frame with 2:23 left in the third. Austin connected with Tom Gilson on to the left, and a great individual effort from Gilson broke two tackles and turned the play into a nine-yard touchdown. Gilson's score gave the Gladiators a 42-28 lead heading into the fourth quarter.
The fourth quarter was the only quarter in which Orlando outscored the Gladiators, but Cleveland's cushion kept them comfortably in front. Lewis caught two touchdowns in the final quarter, giving him three touchdowns and 59 yards in the game on five total grabs. Lewis' third touchdown on a three-yard pass from Austin put the game out of reach with 46 seconds remaining. Orlando added a touchdown with 17 seconds left to cut the Gladiators lead to 56-46, but the game yielded no further scoring.
Next up for the Gladiators: ArenaBowl XXVII on Saturday August 23 at 8:00 PM. The game will be played at The Q in Downtown Cleveland.
NOTES: The Gladiators will make their first trip to the ArenaBowl… The Gladiators did not play Orlando during the regular season… Including the regular season, the Gladiators have won 19 of 20 games on the campaign, and have won 10 straight games dating back to June 7… LaRoche Jackson had four kickoff returns for 76 yards, and also led the Gladiators with 9.5 total tackles in the game… Alvin Ray Jackson had eight total tackles for the Gladiators…