PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — The three missed extra point field goals by Cleveland Gladiator’s kicker Matt Denny turned out to be the difference in the back-and-forth battle against the Pittsburgh Power.
The Power defeated the Gladiators, 35-32, in a game which saw five lead changes at the CONSOL Energy Center on Saturday night in front of 9,066 fans.
With first place in the American East division on the line, the Power (7-4) secured a game advantage over the Gladiators (6-5), and extended their winning streak to four games.
With about six minutes remaining in the game and Pittsburgh ahead, 35-32, Power quarterback Bernard Morris put his team in another position to score after rushing for 11 yards to Cleveland’s four yard line.
On the ensuing play, Morris’ pitched the ball to wide receiver Mike Washington, who fumbled. Prentice Purnell recovered the ball for the Gladiators on Cleveland’s own six yard line.
The turnover allowed Cleveland’s rookie quarterback Kurt Rocco, who finished 28-of-43 for 261 passing yards, to operate his offense with 5:32 left in the fourth.
Looking to capitalize on the turnover, the Gladiators drove down the field, but Power defensive back Carlos Campbell made a game-changing play as he bounced off the wall in the right corner of the end zone, intercepting Rocco, and taking away the final scoring opportunity for the Ohio rival.
The game-winning touchdown came in the third quarter with about 3:15 remaining. Morris drilled an 18-yard pass to Lonnell Dewalt, who was double-covered in the back of the end zone. Dewalt’s 6-foot-6-inch frame out jumped the Cleveland defenders and slammed into the wall after the grab. Dewalt’s touchdown ended the Power’s scoring drive of 1:59 for two plays and 38 yards.
In the first half, Rocco threw for three touchdowns and 136 yards. On the other side of the ball, Morris improved to 5-1 as a starter, and earned Offensive Player of the Game honors. Morris went 17-of-23 for 210 yards and completed three passing touchdowns.
In a pre-game press conference on Thursday, Power head coach Chris Siegfried said the Power has averaged 58 points per game in games when Morris played.
However, Saturday’s game was the second lowest points scored by the Power this season, with their lowest being 22 against Tulsa on April 22. Additionally, the Gladiators recorded their second lowest points scored this season as well.
No points were scored in the fourth quarter, but 27 combined points were tallied in the third.
The Power travel to Tampa for a June 11 date against the Storm at 7:30 p.m. Their next home game is June 25 versus Milwaukee with a 7:30 p.m. start time.
“If we continue to play like we have the last three weeks we’re going to be in pretty good shape as we go forward,” Siegfried said in Thursday’s pre-game press conference.