The game was a must-win for Cleveland. The Gladiators had never started a season 0-4, but the return of Brandon Thompkins, who brought in his 500th career catch and a touchdown for the 33rd straight game, was key in this game. Plus the fact that the Gladiators had lost their opening three games by a combined 10 points, there was reason to be optimistic.
The Cleveland Gladiators took care of business in strong fashion, beating the Washington Valor 48-34. Acting like he never left, quarterback Arvell Nelson scored in many ways tonight proving why Cleveland had to bring him back.
The night looked positive from the start, as the Glads defense did not allow a score on the opening drive, after holding on the ball a little too long leading to a lost fumble early. Nelson would regroup soon after.
Later in the first half, Nelson saw nothing was open and took it upon himself to run for five yards and score the Gladiators’ second touchdown of the game making it 14-7 Cleveland with 12:10 left in the second quarter. After a Glads drive that got inside the Valor 10 saw back to back flags called on the Gladiators, Nelson led the team back down the field and finished the drive on an eight yard pass to Brandon Thompkins to make it 21-14 Cleveland with four minutes left to play in the half.
The end of the half had another turn where Nelson threw a bad pass off the nets that would turn into a pick a moment later, but once again Nelson would refocus along with the Glads defense.
Cleveland would not allow the Valor to score at all in the third frame. They won the quarter 20-0 making it 41-27. The last time Cleveland won a quarter by 20 or more was during the 2014 season vs the New Orleans Voodoo. That season Cleveland went 17-1 and made it to Arena Bowl XXVII.
The icing on the cake came at the 6:02 mark in the final period on 4th down and 15 when Nelson spun around avoiding pressure from the defense, launching a perfect pass to Collin Taylor for a 39 yard score. And this after Nelson made the same move earlier during the 3rd period rushing down field for a 43 yard touchdown run. For the game, Cleveland rushed for 54 more yards than the Valor, seeing Nelson total up 303 total yards and five touchdowns. Tompkins totaled 162 all purpose yards and a score on his history making night.