The Cleveland Gladiators had one roller coaster of a season. It all began when they released former quarterback Arvell Nelson just one week into training camp. They went with Shane Boyd as their starter Week 1 against the Tampa Bay Storm.
Boyd threw for 288 yards and five touchdowns. However, it wasn’t enough as Tampa Bay came out with the win. By Week 2, Nelson was back with the team, but wasn’t their starting quarterback.
Tanner Marsh took over as the starter Week 2 against the expansion franchise in the Baltimore Brigade. Marsh threw for 228 yards and four touchdowns. Unfortunately for him, he also suffered a concussion in that game, which wound up ending his season.
Nelson took over the team in Week 3 against Tampa. Cleveland blew a 27-7 lead and lost, falling to 0-3 on the season. Some were worried about the team that was one game away from ArenaBowl XXIX just a season ago.
Cleveland would get off to a 1-6 start, tied for the worst in the league with the other expansion franchise in the Washington Valor. Could they really be the lone team out of the playoffs? Lucky for them, that wasn’t the case.
Washington went on to lose 10 in a row after their opening win over Baltimore. Cleveland, after their 1-6 start, won four of their final seven, including a regular season-ending win against the Valor. It was good enough to earn them the three seed in the playoffs.
Many thought that at that point, Cleveland was such a good team, they could upset the Storm in their playoff matchup. However, due to penalties at the end of the game, Cleveland would fall one game short of the ArenaBowl for the second consecutive season.
Their future is bright, however. They improved with every game last season, and if they can stay afloat in 2018, they could wind up in ArenaBowl XXXI.