The Los Angeles KISS were in the perfect position to defeat the Cleveland Gladiators for the third time this season on Sunday night, when LA was hosting a first round playoff game at the Valley View Casino Center in San Diego, California. Los Angeles had the 46-34 lead in the early stages of the fourth quarter, and they held the 46-41 lead with two minutes left to go in the game. The KISS had the ball in the Geico Blue Zone, but on fourth down, LA didn’t opt to attempt a field goal, and fullback Rory Nixon was stopped short, giving the Gladiators possession with under two minutes remaining.
Cleveland had a third down inside the Blue Zone, and quarterback Arvell Nelson threw an incomplete pass, but an illegal defense penalty committed by the KISS gave the Gladiators an automatic first down. Cleveland would take advantage of the penalty, as Nelson scored on a QB sneak, giving Cleveland the 47-46 lead. Nelson would also tack on two extra points after converting the two-point try, which meant the KISS would need a field goal to tie the game. Los Angeles had burned all of their timeouts, so they could only stop the clock by getting out of bounds.
LA had 30 seconds to tie the game, but it turned out that they wouldn’t get the chance to tie the game. The ensuing kickoff bounced off the net, and Fred Williams couldn’t come up with it, and that meant bad news for the KISS. Cleveland’s Larry Beavers picked up the football, and he would end up scoring the game-clinching touchdown. Los Angeles didn’t go away, as Nathan Stanley hooked up with Williams on an eight-yard touchdown pass, which cut the Gladiators lead to 56-52.
Garrett Lindholm missed the extra point, which meant the KISS would need a touchdown to win the game if they recovered the onside kick. Los Angeles attempted the onside kick, but Cleveland was able to recover it easily, and the Gladiators outlasted the KISS, 56-52.
Cleveland came out of the gates firing, as they ended the first quarter with a 20-6 lead. Los Angeles had a much better second quarter, as they only trailed by two points heading into halftime. Another strong quarter in the third gave LA the 12-point lead heading into the fourth quarter. Los Angeles was unable to beat Cleveland for the third time this season, as the KISS finished the season with a 7-10 record, which is LA’s best record in franchise history.
Nathan Stanley completed 19 of his 34 passes for 205 yards and five touchdowns. Donovan Morgan caught nine passes for 132 yards and three touchdowns in his final game in the AFL. Nelson completed 13 of his 26 passes for 202 yards and three touchdowns. He also scored one touchdown on the ground. Collin Taylor caught eight passes for 95 yards and one touchdown. The Gladiators will be moving on to the National Conference Championship Game, where they will play the Arizona Rattlers for the right to go to the ArenaBowl.