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Rocco Rushes Gladiators into First Place

by Randy Snow

Originally posted on ArenaFan.com, Sunday, July 3, 2011

Cleveland Gladiators quarterback Kurt Rocco took the snap from center and looked over the field but could not find an open receiver. Knowing the game was on the line he took off and scrambled eight yards to the end zone for the winning touchdown last night with just three seconds left on the clock. That run gave the Gladiators a 62-58 road win over the Milwaukee Mustangs and also put them in sole possession of first place in the American Conference East Division.

“I just tried to avoid the rush,” Rocco said of the winning touchdown run. “The defensive line was bringing it and they also had good coverage. I saw an opening, and I took it.”

Rocco was thrown into action in Game 1 this season when quarterback John Dutton was injured. He has started 13 games this season and has posted a 7-6 record. Rocco has over 3,000 yards passing, has thrown 58 touchdowns and has his team in first place in their division. “He’s done a very good job for a rookie quarterback,” Thonn said of Rocco. “He’s had some great games and he’s struggled during some games, but tonight he showed his leadership and that’s what we need down the stretch.”

While the game had a wild finish, it certainly was not that way throughout most of the game. The two teams were ties 21-21 at halftime with neither team ever holding more than a seven-point lead and any time. At the end of the third quarter, Cleveland had a 14-point lead, 42-28, but Milwaukee erased that in the fourth quarter and tied the score again at 49-49 with 3:52 remaining in the game.  That’s when both teams kicked it up a notch.

Just before the one minute warning, Rocco connected with wide receiver Troy Bergeron for a 15-yard touchdown, giving Cleveland a 55-49 lead. Neither team had missed an extra point all night, but on this PAT, Matt Denny’s kick was blocked and a mad scramble ensued. The loose ball was finally picked up by Milwaukee’s Brandon Brinkley, who carried it into the end zone giving the Mustangs two points of their own. The score now stood at 55-51 in favor of Cleveland.

Milwaukee quarterback Gino Guidugli then connected with Dwayne Eley, Jr. on a 41-yard touchdown with just 40 second left on the clock. The Mustangs had the lead, 58-55. Rocco then led the Gladiators down the field, culminating with his third rushing touchdown of the game giving Cleveland a come-from-behind road victory. The win improves the Gladiators’ record to 9-6 while the Mustangs record falls to 4-11.

In the game, Cleveland quarterback Kurt Rocco completed 20 of 36 passes for 257 yards, four touchdowns and one interception. He also ran for three touchdowns. Wide receiver Troy Bergeron caught seven passes for 113 yards and two touchdowns. Dominick Goodman also caught seven passes for 88 yards and a touchdown and Robert Redd hauled in six passes for 56 yards and a touchdown.  Defensive lineman Anthony Hoke recovered a fumble and returned it five yards for a touchdown in the second quarter. Defensive back Mike Bragg had a 16-yard interception return for a touchdown at the end of the third quarter.     

For Milwaukee, quarterback Gino Guidugli completed 23 of 33 passes for 285 yards, five touchdowns and one interception. He also rushed for two touchdowns and was sacked three times. Wide receiver Dwayne Eley, Jr. caught eight passes for 143 yards and four touchdowns. Teammate Victor Williams also caught eight passes for 87 yards and a touchdown.


In the second quarter, Cleveland kicker Matt Denny had to convert an extra point from the 20-yard line after the team committed two five-yard penalties. Then in the third quarter, Cleveland was assessed a 10-yard penalty on a PAT, but Denny also converted that one as well.


When an errant pass went into the stands in the second half, it was caught by an enthusiastic fan. The public address announcer mentioned what a nice catch the fan made and he was shown on the arena’s giant video screen that is suspended over the field. As the camera zoomed in on the happy fan, he flexed his muscle for the camera and raised his shirt sleeve to reveal a Chicago Bears logo tattooed on his bicep. The partisan Packer backers in attendance booed loudly!


Through the first 17 weeks of the Arena Football League season, the Cleveland Gladiators have not been featured on the NFL Network’s Arena Football Friday telecasts, but that all changes this Friday. Cleveland travels to Pennsylvania on July 8 to take on the Philadelphia Soul in their first NFL Network game of the season.  Then on Friday, July 15, the Gladiators will be featured once again on the NFL Network when they host the Pittsburgh Power.


The Cleveland staff is keeping a close eye on the NFL negotiations with their Players Union to end the current lockout. A new collective bargaining agreement in the NFL will most certainly mean an end to Arena Football League season for wide receiver Troy Bergeron, who is currently on the Reserve Future list of players for the Dallas Cowboys. “When (the lockout) ends, I’ve got to go,” Bergeron said. ”They’ve known that all along.”

Cleveland head coach Steve Thonn is hoping the NFL lockout lasts just a little bit longer. “When we signed Troy we thought there would be a lockout (in the NFL) and we knew that we could lose him at any time. Our thinking back then was that, for as many games as we have him, it will only help us. If we lose him, we lose him, but hopefully (the NFL lockout) does get delayed a little longer.”

The Gladiators have three games left in the regular season.


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