Both the Cleveland Gladiators and the Tampa Bay Storm took the field Saturday night hoping to erase the memory of Week 1 when both teams were embarrassed on their home turf. Unfortunately for Cleveland the nightmare continued into the opening kickoff as WR Larry Beavers coughed up the football and gave Tampa Bay a short field. It took several tries, but the Storm were able to punch the ball in the end zone to take a quick 6-0 lead for Tampa Bay.
Turnovers were the story of this game as both teams combined to turn the ball over six times which led to a sloppy showing at the Q. But at the end of the day, Cleveland won this game 41-29 because of one simple thing, their QB was competent. Tampa Bay brought Adam Kennedy back into the starting line-up probably not because they wanted to, but because they had too. He only lasted a half as he was unable to play after being hit hard twice in the final seconds of the 1st half. His backup Jonathan Bane didn’t fare too much better as he failed to complete even half of his passes. Between the two QB’s they went 18 for 37 for 156 yards with 3 touchdowns and 3 interceptions. That won’t get the job done at any level of football.
On the other side of the field, Cleveland brought in Dennis Havrilla who was with the team during training camp, but was cut before the season started after they decided to go with Chris Dieker and Avrill Nelson in Week 1. Well, Dieker made it one game and was put on the Injured Reserve list earlier in the week due to an ankle injury he suffered at the end of the loss to the Soul in Week 1. No one really knew how Dennis would play as he has bounced around the league so much in his short career and his last stint in the league was last season with the Las Vegas Outlaws. He was a nice surprise as he finished with almost a 110 quarterback rating while tossing five touchdowns in the win. He was able to get Collin Taylor involved unlike Dieker in Week 1. Taylor finished the game with five catches for 69 yards and three scores. If Dennis can continue to play like he did last night, expect Cleveland to hand him the starting job for the rest of the season, even if Dieker is ready to return after Week 9.
The silver lining for Tampa Bay continues to be their WR core. V’Keon Lacey returned this week and quickly snagged two touchdowns on three receptions. Phillip Barnett also returned in Week 2 and proved to be both Kennedy and Bane’s favorite target. Once the Storm get Julius Gregory back, then the foursome of Gregory, Barnett, Lacey, and Toliver will be a touch matchup for defenders. For their sake, I hope Tampa can get some stability at the quarterback position.
The bright spot in Cleveland seems to be the play of rookie DB Joe Powell. He followed up his two interception performance in week 1 with another two interception day in Week 2. Joe easily could’ve had a couple more if not for letting the ball slip through his hands. But when it mattered most, in the fourth quarter with less than 20 seconds, Powell showed his playmaking ability by snagging a pass in his own end zone, breaking a tackle, and taking it 50 yards to ice the victory for Cleveland. Powell will be a strong candidate to repeat as the AFL Highlight of the week winner.
Looking ahead to week three, Cleveland finds themselves in their third straight home game as they host the Los Angeles KISS in a battle for second place of the National Conference. The KISS are coming off a bad loss to Arizona, so you can expect Omarr Smith to have his players ready to go next Saturday Night on CBS Sports Net. Tampa Bay’s schedule continues to be rough as they will travel cross-country to take on the red-hot Arizona Rattlers in their home opener. Coach Samuels better figure out something because he is going to start losing the players in the locker room if they can’t find a half decent quarterback to lead this team until Jason Boltus returns.
Under Armour Offensive Player of the Game: Dennis Havrilla, Cleveland
Riddell Defensive Player of the Game: Joe Powell, Cleveland
Lewis Small Playmaker of the Game: Thyron Lewis, Cleveland
Cutters Catch of the Game: Joe Powell interception, Cleveland
AFL Highlight of the Game: Joe Powell game-winning interception, Cleveland