In their first road and second overall game of the 2013 season, the Cleveland Gladiators (0-2) were unable to overcome their six turnovers on Saturday night, as they fell by a 69-47 score to the Tampa Bay Storm (1-1). Although the Gladiators led by six points after the first quarter, the Storm outscored Cleveland by 14 points in both the second and fourth quarters to take control of the game.
Former Storm and current Gladiators quarterback Brian Zbydniewski threw for 246 yards and four touchdowns in his second game as Cleveland's starting quarterback. Jonathan Wilson hauled in three touchdowns through the air for the Gladiators. Derik Steiner ran for two touchdowns, while Dominick Goodman scored one on the ground and caught one touchdown pass for Cleveland.
Cleveland's offense was rolling to start things off, totaling four first downs in their opening drive. Steiner put the Gladiators in scoring position with a 19-yard run before rushing into the end zone three plays later to give Cleveland the early 6-0 lead. After the extra-point was blocked, the Storm quickly drove down the field to take the lead on their first possession, 7-6.
The Gladiators regained the lead after Zbydniewski connected with Wilson on an 8-yard touchdown with 2:02 remaining in the first quarter. In the very first play of the Storm's next offensive possession, Cleveland defensive lineman Randy Colling forced a fumble by Tampa Bay receiver Joe Hills. Defensive back Brandon Anderson picked up the loose ball and ran for 13 yards to give Cleveland possession at the Storm's 5-yard line.
In the second quarter, with a chance to go up two scores, Zbydniewski had his pass intercepted in the end zone, his first of three picks in the game. Trailing 14-13, the Gladiators bounced back from their previous possession when Goodman plunged into the end zone from a yard out with 9:47 remaining in the quarter. The Storm came back with a touchdown of their own before Wilson grabbed his second touchdown reception of the day from Zbydniewski with 3:48 remaining, but the Gladiators were outscored 28-14 in the quarter and found themselves down 35-27 going into halftime.
Tampa Bay built a 15-point lead in the second half, 49-34, by scoring after one of the Gladiators' three fumbles in the game. Steiner's second touchdown on the evening cut the deficit to eight with 3:02 left in the third quarter, but Cleveland would get no closer than that the rest of the way.
The Storm added three more touchdowns in the fourth quarter. The Gladiators had a tough time with Storm quarterback Adrian McPherson, a former AFL Rookie of the Year, who threw for eight touchdown passes and rushed for two more. Goodman caught a 6-yard catch that accounted for the final Gladiators score of the game.
Wilson led the way for the Gladiators in the receiving yards department with 106 on nine catches, to go along with his three touchdowns. Goodman had 129 kick return yards on eight attempts. Defensively, Brandon Anderson picked up 5.5 tackles and recovered one fumble to pace the Gladiators. Lance Caldwell and Jamar Love also had 5.5 tackles apiece.
The Gladiators return home on Saturday, April 6th to host the Jacksonville Sharks at Quicken Loans Arena.