Ever since the Arena Football League announced that every team will compete in the playoffs, every team has played for one thing: home-field advantage in the playoffs. When the Los Angeles KISS battled the Cleveland Gladiators on Saturday evening, those two teams were fighting to take over the fourth seed, which is were you need to be to host a playoff game.
The KISS played their final home game of the season, as the team celebrated the fans on Fan Appreciation Night. Behind 8,069 fans at the Honda Center, the KISS staved off a Cleveland fourth quarter comeback, and they pulled out the crucial 63-61 victory.
LA won the coin toss, and they differed possession to the second half. The Gladiators struck first, when Arvell Nelson connected with Quentin Sims on a 19-yard touchdown pass, which gave Cleveland the early 7-0 lead.
The KISS had a quick response, as three plays later, Nathan Stanley found Donovan Morgan for a six-yard touchdown pass, which tied the score at seven apiece. Nelson took care of matters himself on the next possession, when he scored on a three-yard quarterback-keeper, which gave Cleveland the 14-7 advantage.
Stanley hooked up with Morgan on a six-yard touchdown, which evened the score at 14. Just as time expired in the first quarter, Nelson connected with Collin Taylor on a 28-yard touchdown pass, which gave Cleveland the 21-14 advantage at the end of the first quarter.
The KISS turned the ball over on downs in the first possession of the second quarter, but they would regain possession thanks to the defense. Mike Lewis forced DJ Brandel to fumble, and the KISS took advantage of the turnover.
Stanley connected with Collin Madison on a four-yard touchdown, which knotted the score at 21 apiece. Two plays after an unsuccessful KISS onside kick attempt, Nelson found Sims in the end zone for a seven-yard touchdown, which gave Cleveland the 28-21 edge.
With four seconds left in the half, Stanley hooked up with Morgan on a 11-yard touchdown, which tied the score at 28. The KISS took their first lead of the game, when Stanley converted on a one-yard quarterback sneak.
LA was leading 35-28, and their defense would step up on the next Cleveland possession. The Gladiators turned the ball over on downs, and the KISS capitalized on the Gladiators not scoring. Stanley connected with DJ Stephens, who hauled in a 41-yard touchdown pass, which gave LA the 42-28 advantage, which was the largest lead of the game at that point.
The KISS defense came up big again, when Qumain Black picked off Nelson. The KISS were able to take advantage, as Stanley hooked up with Stephens on a 14-yard touchdown pass, giving LA the 49-28 advantage. Cleveland stopped the bleeding when Nelson connected with Sims on a 15-yard touchdown pass, but a missed PAT meant that Cleveland trailed by 15.
Two plays after Cleveland converted on an onside kick, Nelson and Sims connected again, this time on a 28-yard touchdown pass, which cut the KISS lead to eight. Following an unsuccessful onside kick by Cleveland, Stanley found Morgan in the end zone on a eight-yard pass, which gave the KISS a 56-41 advantage.
Nelson scored on a one-yard quarterback scramble, which cut the KISS to eight points. Cleveland would return the ensuing onside kick for a touchdown, but they couldn’t tie the game after Nelson failed to find a receiver on the two-point conversion.
Stanley would connect with Stephens for a seven-yard touchdown pass, which gave LA the two possession lead. Cleveland tried to make one last comeback, after Nelson found Sims for a 19-yard touchdown pass, which cut the deficit to two points.
The comeback was foiled, when Morgan recovered the onside kick. The KISS ultimately would end up winning the game 63-61, and they now hold a half game lead for the fourth seed. Nathan Stanley completed 25 of his 37 passing attempts, for 317 yards and scored nine touchdowns, which tied for his career-high. Donovan Morgan caught seven passes for 102 yards and three touchdowns.
Nelson completed 19 of his 32 pass attempts, for 332 yards and eight touchdowns. Sims hauled in 12 passes for 197 yards and five touchdowns. The Gladiators (7-8) will play their final game of the regular season next week against the Arizona Rattlers. The KISS (7-7), will go on the road to face the Jacksonville Sharks next week.