CLEVELAND, OH – In front of 12,865 fans at Quicken Loans Arena, the Cleveland Gladiators, presented by Unique Home Solutions, fell to the Tampa Bay Storm, 46-40, in Saturday night’s 2017 home opener.
Quarterback Shane Boyd passed for 288 yards and five touchdowns in the loss, while wide receiver Larry Brackins totaled three touchdowns in his Cleveland debut. Tampa Bay quarterback Randy Hippeard threw for 205 yards and six touchdowns in the victory for the Storm.
The Tampa Bay Storm got on the board first with 2:44 remaining in the first half when Cleveland quarterback Shane Boyd’s quick screen pass tipped off wide receiver Larry Brackins hands and into the waiting arms of defensive lineman Caesar Rayford for Tampa Bay. Rayford stumbled four yards into the end zone to give the Storm the early 7-0 lead.
Cleveland answered on their next drive as Boyd found veteran wide receiver Collin Taylor for his first touchdown of the season, a 29-yarder, to pull even with the Storm 7-7 with 14:29 remaining in the first half.
After a Tampa Bay score, the Gladiators quickly responded on their ensuing drive as Boyd found Taylor for his second touchdown of the game, a 10-yard strike to give Cleveland its first lead of the game at 14-13 with 4:50 left in the second quarter.
The Storm would however cap off the first half with quarterback Randy Hippeard hooking up with wide receiver Joe Hills for the pair’s second touchdown of the game, reclaiming the lead for Tampa Bay, 19-14.
The Gladiators opened the second half with the ball and quickly found pay dirt as Boyd connected with wide receiver Brandon Thompkins on a 24-yard throw and catch to push Cleveland back into the lead. Kicker Drew Basil, an Ohio State alumnus, tacked on the extra point to make the score 21-19 early in the third quarter.
After a couple of Tampa Bay scores, the Gladiators offense struck again on a two-yard rushing touchdown from Brackins, trimming the Storm lead to 32-28 with 7:06 remaining in the game.
It didn’t take long for Tampa Bay to extend their lead once more as Hills hauled in his third touchdown of the game, a seven-yarder from Hippeard to push the Storm lead up to 39-28. Cleveland answered once again, this time an eight-yard toss from Boyd to Brackins to pull the score to 39-34.
After a Storm touchdown put the game out of reach for good, it was Cleveland who capped off the scoring for the evening with a two-yard touchdown strike from Boyd to Brackins, his third score of the night, giving the opening night victory to Tampa Bay, 46-40.
Next up for the Gladiators is a home date with the expansion Baltimore Brigade Saturday, April 15 th at 7:00pm. The game can be streamed live on ClevelandGladiators.com and heard on 92.3 The Fan.