CLEVELAND - Jonathan Wilson found the end zone three times on passes from Cleveland Gladiators quarterback Brian Zbydniewski Saturday night, but it wasn't enough to hold off the potent offense of the Utah Blaze. The Gladiators (1-4) fell to Utah (2-3) by a 57-40 score at Quicken Loans Arena in front of 9,234. The Gladiators led 14-13 after the first quarter, but it was a 22-0 Utah advantage in the third quarter that propelled the Blaze to the victory, which snapped their three-game losing skid. Dominick Goodman returned to the Gladiators lineup to make six catches, while Thyron Lewis and Wilson each hauled in six Zbydniewski passes as well. The Gladiators, who are now 0-3 at home, take to the road to visit San Jose next week.
Wilson found the end zone on a 12-yard catch on the game's first drive, as the Gladiators set the tone, scoring just 2:33 into the game. After Utah evened the score at 7-7, Zbydniewski punched the ball into the end zone from a yard out for his first of two rushing touchdowns in the game.
With the Gladiators trailing 27-21 in the closing seconds of the first half, Utah quarterback and last season's AFL MVP Tommy Grady took a stab at the end zone on fourth down, and Gladiators defensive back Lenny Wicks came up with a diving interception; a play that saw Wicks fall over the boards and out of play while intercepting the ball. Wicks capped off a huge defensive series, which also saw Todd Storm register a sack of Grady, and it kept the game at a one-score margin at halftime. Wicks, a Youngstown State product, finished the game with a Gladiators team-high 10 tackles.
In the third quarter, Utah scored three touchdowns; two of which were to receiver Aaron Lesue, who ended the game with 14 catches and four touchdowns. By the late portion of the third quarter, Utah had taken charge, as they grew their lead to 49-21 with 1:38 remaining in the third quarter.
The Gladiators found the end zone three times in the fourth quarter, with two of the touchdowns coming from Wilson, and another on a one-yard Derik Steiner touchdown run, but the Gladiators never pulled to within fewer than 17 points.
The Gladiators are back on the field Saturday in San Jose, with the game beginning at 10:30 PM Eastern and airing live on 92.3 The Fan.
NOTES: Thyron Lewis has at least six catches in four consecutive games… Jonathan Wilson has touchdowns in four straight games for the Gladiators… Goodman did not play last week in Philadelphia, but had six catches for 46 yards Saturday night against Utah… Derik Steiner's 27-yard run was Cleveland's longest rushing play of the season… Zbydniewski's three touchdown passes was his lowest total of the season in a single game, but his two rushing touchdowns give him his first multi-rushing touchdown game of the season, and give him a rushing touchdown in all but one game this season.