History was not on Cleveland’s side, as the Cleveland Gladiators were 0-4 all time when facing the Arizona Rattlers, and the last time Coach Thonn gave the Rattlers a taste of their own medicine was 2008 when he was coaching the Grand Rapids Rampage.
Going into tonight there was reason for hope, with a 5-4 record and one game behind Arizona for first place in the National Conference and their four game winning streak after starting the season 1-4. Tonight a young Cleveland team found out they still have some growing up to do.
Early in this game, Cleveland looked like they were ready to show the AFL that, even though they have a lot of miles ahead of them, they were ready to go to battle with anyone. Both Arizona and Cleveland got the ball five times and all 10 total possessions ended with a touchdown. The first change of flow in this game was a missed extra point with 55 seconds left in the first half after Cleveland’s fifth score. A couple traded touchdowns later it still was only a one point 42-41 lead at the half for Arizona, so a solid first half for both teams seeming to go in opposite directions.
Arvell Nelson‘s second throw of the second half looked really off, without a doubt his worst throw of the night, as he saw one of the first good rushes from the Rattlers, led by Chris McAllister. They would be stopped two plays later on 4th and 3.
On Arizona’s next drive, Cleveland’s Chris Young sacked Nick Davila on 4th down inside the 10 to get the ball back with 6:16 left in the third, and it seemed like it would be a nail bitter. Both teams traded touchdowns on their next drives but after a Rattlers score made it 56-48, Cleveland’s Larry Beavers fumbled and the Rattlers recovered. McAllister forced the fumble with 1:01 left in the third.
Cleveland helped keep the Rattlers’ drive going by committing an illegal helmet penalty that set up 1st and goal from the six to start the 4th, and on the next play Mykel Benson took it down the sideline six yards to give the Rattlers the 63-48 lead. On their next possession, Cleveland went for -4 yards, nearly being sacked in the end zone. One could even argue that Nelson landed on players once forced back and could have been called for a fumble that Arizona recovered.
The Glads were never able to steal a possession back from Arizona in a game that saw Cleveland try several onside kicks and only stop Arizona on one drive the entire game. The Rattlers were able to keep that winning margin of 15 with a final score of 77-62. Cleveland plays their final six games on the road starting with next Saturday at Orlando.