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Gladiators Snake-Bitten by Rattlers in ArenaBowl XXVII
posted on ArenaFan.com, Thursday, August 27 2014
It was supposed to be
the culmination of one of the greatest seasons ever by an Arena Football team. A
win at home in ArenaBowl XXVII would have brought the city of Cleveland its
first pro sports championship since the Cleveland Browns won the NFL title in
1964. But someone forgot to tell the Arizona Rattlers that their role in the
game was to be that of the gracious loser.
Arizona took an early 14-0 lead in the game and never looked back, leaving town
with their third consecutive AFL championship after a 72-32 shellacking of the
hometown Gladiators Saturday night. The dominating performance by the Rattlers
showed why they have appeared in the ArenaBowl four straight years and now have
three titles to show for it.
When asked how he has been able to put together winning teams the past four
years, Rattlers coach Kevin Guy had this to say after the game, “Our staff does
a great job of evaluating talent. We’re not really big on going out and getting
free agents from other teams. We want guys to come in and learn our brand of
Arena Football. As we move forward as an organization I think we’re going to
continue to bring in young guys and teach them our way of doing things.”
Cleveland head coach Steve Thonn was as mystified as the rest of the 18,410 fans
in attendance who witnessed the game when trying to explain the collapse of his
team. “We just didn’t play well,” Thonn said after the game. “It was a little
bit of everything and it’s disappointing that we didn’t come out and give it our
best game tonight.”
Cleveland’s trademark all season long was in keeping games close, giving them
the opportunity to win at the end. Six times, the Gladiators came from behind to
win on the final play of the game.
Along the way, the Gladiators did show that they could put up some serious
points and play good defense, too. Like when they manhandled the Iowa
Barnstormers 86-49 on June 7 or when they dismissed the Jacksonville Sharks
62-20 on July 19.
But all that didn’t matter in the title game against Arizona. The Rattlers
scored 30 points in the second quarter and led 44-13 at halftime. Cleveland
quarterback Shane Austin threw three interceptions in the first half, two of
them to Arizona defensive back Jeremy Kellem. The uncharacteristic play of the
Gladiators was the result of dropped passes, overthrown balls and blown
Cleveland was never able to recover from the second quarter scoring onslaught by
Arizona and the hometown fans finally had to come to the realization that a
victory was just not in the cards
For Arizona, quarterback Nick Davila completed 19 of 24 passes for 237 yards. He
threw eight touchdowns and had one interception. He was named the game’s MVP as
well as Offensive Player of the Game. The leading receivers for Arizona were
Tysson Poots, who caught nine passes for 93 yards and two touchdowns, and Rod
Windsor, who caught seven passes for 123 yards and three touchdowns. Kerry Reed,
who plays wide receiver as well as defensive back, caught three passes for 20
yards and two touchdowns. He also had two interception in the game, one was
returned for a touchdown. Reed was named Playmaker of the Game and his
interception return for a touchdown was the AFL Highlight of the Game.
For Cleveland, quarterback Shane Austin completed 18 of 41 passes for 201 yards.
He threw three touchdowns and had four interceptions. Austin was replaced by
quarterback Chris Dieker in the fourth quarter. Dieker completed four of nine
passes for 68 yards and two touchdowns. Leading receivers were Thyron Lewis, who
caught eight passes for 134 yards and one touchdown, and Dominick Goodman, who
caught seven passes for 60 yards and three touchdowns.
The fans in Cleveland can still be proud of what their team accomplished in
2014. They came out of nowhere, after posting a 4-14 record in 2013, to have the
best AFL regular season ever this year and they hosted the ArenaBowl. There’s no
telling what will happen next year, but Cleveland fans should be ready for
anything, including (dare I say it) a possible return trip to the ArenaBowl?
Cleveland Was Rocking
It was a crazy Saturday night in the city of Cleveland. Not only was ArenaBowl
XXVII played at Quicken Loans Arena, but at the same time, and right next door,
the MLB Cleveland Indians were playing the Houston Astros at Progressive Field.
To make things even crazier, just a few miles north, on the shores of Lake Erie,
the NFL Cleveland Browns were hosting a preseason game against the St. Louis
Rams at FirstEnergy Stadium. Local reports estimated that 100,000 people were
expected to attend the three simultaneous sporting events, and they were
spot-on. The attendance at the Browns game was 61,663 and the Indians played in
front of 20,785. That’s a grand total of 100,858 fans loving their hometown
Cleveland teams at the same time.
I’m not sure that there has ever been one night in any city in America that was
so engulfed in sports testosterone all at one time. The only winner that night,
however, was the Indians, who defeated the Astros 3-2 in 10 innings. The Browns
lost to the Rams 33-14.
Head Coach and Assistant Coach of the Year
At the AFL Awards Ceremony Thursday night, Cleveland head coach Steve Thonn was
named AFL Coach of the Year and assistant coach Ron Selesky was named Assistant
Coach of the Year. The pair led the team to a 17-1 regular season record, the
best ever in league history. Thonn and Selesky have been coaching together since
2008 when Thonn was the head coach of the Grand Rapids Rampage. They were also
teammates briefly in 1987 as replacement players for the NFL Minnesota Vikings
during the players strike.
The 18,401 fans at the game was the fifth highest attendance in ArenaBowl
history. ArenaBowl XVII in 2003 was the most attended game at 20,496. That game
was played in Tampa between the Rattlers and the Tampa Bay Storm.
The 40-point margin of victory by Arizona this year was also a record for an
The Rattlers have now won three straight ArenaBowl titles. Only one other team
in league history has accomplished that; the Detroit Drive, who won titles in
1988, 1989 and 1990. (ArenaBowl II, III and IV)
Looking Ahead to
At the ArenaBowl Media Day on Friday, AFL Commissioner Jerry Kurz announced the
addition of an expansion team for next season. The Las Vegas Outlaws will be
owned by Vince Neil, the lead singer of the rock band, Motley Crue. Neil had
been a part owner of the league’s Jacksonville Sharks franchise. This season,
the Los Angeles KISS took to the field as an expansion team. That team is owned
by Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons of the rock band, KISS.
Las Vegas has had two previous AFL teams; The Las Vegas Sting in 1994-1995 and
the Las Vegas Gladiators from 2003-2007. The Gladiators then moved to Cleveland
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