Quarterback Chris Dieker accounted for eight total touchdowns as the Cleveland Gladiators (3-12) topped the Pittsburgh Power (3-12) by a 71-58 score Saturday night at Quicken Loans Arena. With the win, the Gladiators remain in playoff contention, and were able to snap a seven-game losing streak; they also earned a split in the two-game season series against the Power. Dieker completed 27 of 33 passes for 252 yards and five touchdowns, while rushing for three more scores. Leading the way in receiving for the Gladiators, Dominick Goodman had 10 catches for 95 yards and two touchdowns.
The Gladiators fumbled on their first drive of the game, setting up a 42-yard touchdown pass from Pittsburgh quarterback Steven Sheffield to receiver Julian Talley on the first offensive play for the Power, giving them a 7-0 lead four minutes into the contest. The Gladiators answered with three straight touchdowns. With 5:28 left in the opening quarter, Dieker ran the ball into the end zone from two yards, and 1:17 later, Cody Pearcy recovered a fumbled Pittsburgh kick return in the end zone to give the Gladiators a 13-7 lead through one quarter.
Goodman scored first in a wild second quarter in which the Gladiators outscored the power 22-16 by reeling in a seven-yard touchdown catch. Dieker managed to find all three starting Gladiators receivers for touchdown catches in the second quarter, as Carlese Franklin caught a six-yard touchdown pass with 4:59 left in the frame and Thyron Lewis caught a 21-yard touchdown strike with 27 seconds left in the half. Power kicker Julian Rauch nailed a 19-yard field goal as the first half expired, cutting the Gladiators lead to 35-23 at halftime.
Pittsburgh scored twice in the first 3:31 of the second half to take a short-lived 37-35 lead; both scoring plays were 21-yard touchdown catches made by Talley. Once again, though, the Gladiators answered with a trio of unanswered touchdowns. Lewis caught a three-yard touchdown pass with 8:31 remaining in the third quarter to regain a Gladiators lead for good, making the score 41-37. With 3:25 left in the frame, Goodman caught a nine yard touchdown pass, and that was followed by Marrio Norman's 54-yard interception returned for a touchdown with 16 seconds left in the third quarter. After three, the Gladiators led 57-37.
Pittsburgh outscored the Gladiators 21-14 in the fourth quarter, but the Gladiators lead was too much to overcome. Both Gladiators touchdowns in the final quarter were rushing touchdowns by Dieker.
The Gladiators are back in action Saturday night on the road against the Chicago Rush, with the action beginning at 8:00 PM and airing live on 92.3 The Fan. The Gladiators final home game of the regular season is Saturday, July 20, when they host the Orlando Predators.
NOTES: Franklin had one touchdown, giving him seven over his last four games; six receiving, and one on a kickoff return… Franklin had three-straight two-touchdown games entering Saturday… Goodman caught 10 passes for the Gladiators, and entered the game third in the AFL with 9.2 receptions per game… Dieker has six rushing touchdowns over his last two games after three Saturday night against Pittsburgh… The Gladiators had not won since May 11, and Pittsburgh's five-game losing streak stretched back to May 25 when they topped the Gladiators in Pittsburgh by a 55-44 score… The Gladiators already have one win this season against next week's opponent, Chicago.