PHILADELPHIA (June 21st) – After losing to the Gladiators weeks ago because of a buzzer-beater touchdown from QB Shane Austin, the Cleveland Gladiators mirrored that performance and defeated the Philadelphia Soul , 69-68 in front of 8,033 fans to clinch a playoff berth.
With 1:00 minute left in the fourth quarter, the Soul were leading the Gladiators, 62-50 until QB Shane Austin threw a 2 yard touchdown to Collin Taylor that nudged the score down to a 62-57 game. As the game went on, Cleveland onside kicked and recovered the ball at their own 19. Shane Austin and the offense eventually advanced the ball and their offensive performance resulted in a 28 yard touchdown to WR Thyron Lewis that put Cleveland in control of the lead 63-62. Conversely, the Soul kept their heads up after three plays when Raudabaugh threw a potential game-winning touchdown to WR Markee White with 0:02 seconds left to give the Soul a respectable 68-63 edge. However, after a failed two-point conversion from the Soul, Gladiators rejoiced after Shane Austin threw a 47 yard hail mary off of the hands from Soul DB Rayshaun Kizer and into the hands of Gladiators WR Dominick Goodman to give Cleveland a playoff berth.
“We’ve been in these kinds of situations before this season,” Gladiators QB Shane Austin told the Plain Dealer after the game. “We’re able to respond. We’re a team that battles through adversity.”
WR Thyron Lewis, J. Lewis Small Playmaker Of Game, spoke with Soul Insider to discuss that final hail mary play. Lewis finished the game with 8 receptions, 172 yards and 4 touchdowns.
“Well I knew I had to get down field to even attempt to make a play or tip it,” Lewis said. “I figured either I grab it at the highest point or tip it to a teammate. Romain tried to grab it, I just figured with all 3 DBS by me ,one of my teammates had to be open and close. I tipped it and [Goodman] grabbed it.”
Shane Austin, Russell Offensive Player of the game, played a memorable game for his east division-leading Gladiators. Austin finished the game with an outstanding 11 touchdowns and threw for 409 yards.
“Shane is a great QB, he has great poise an a strong arm!” Thyron Lewis said enthusastically about his quarterback. “He’s very accurate and he played a great game!”
As for the Soul, head coach Clint Dolezel was obviously not pleased with the way the game ended when he spoke with reporters.
“It’s not just this game, we’ve had games like this all year that ended like that,” Dolezel said after the game. “The frustration is overwhelming right now.”
QB Dan Raudabaugh played a normal game against Cleveland. Raudabaugh finished the game by going 19-27, 250 yards, 5 touchdowns and 1 interception. Dan acknowledged that the Soul are pretty much a better team than the Gladiators despite late-game situations.
“From the looks of it, [Cleveland] are one play better than us,” Raudabaugh said. “I’m not taking any credit away from them. They played hard, physical and they played together.”
This loss put the Soul in a doubtful like situation in making the postseason. Since The Tampa Bay Storm defeated the Orlando Predators in week 15, it put the Soul in a win or stay-home scenario when they face the Iowa Barnstormers in week 16. The game is watchable on ESPN 3.