Anaheim, CA—The LA KISS (7-7) were able to survive a fourth-quarter comeback by the Cleveland Gladiators (7-8) and ultimately walked out of the Honda Center victorious by a final score of 63-to-61 in front of 8,069 fans on Saturday evening.
“We took a huge step in today’s game,” said Head Coach Omar Smith. “We were able to handle some adversity. There was one point where Cleveland started to come back and our guys did not waver. They made the plays that were necessary to get the win.”
Under Armour Player of the Game, quarterback Nathan Stanley had a career night. He tied is career-high of nine touchdowns, eight passing and one on the ground, while completing 25-of-37 pass attempts for 317 yards. Stephens hauled in 10 receptions for 126 yards and four touchdowns to lead the LA KISS receiving corps. Donovan “Captain” Morgan found the end zone three times, while catching seven passes for 102 yards. Fullback Rory Nixon recorded three passes for 41 yards, while scurrying his way for 12 yards on the ground.
For the Gladiators, quarterback Arvell Nelson threw six touchdowns, and scrambled for two more. He completed 19-of-32 pass attempts for 332 yards and one interception. Quentin Sims registered 12 receptions for 197 yards and five touchdowns to lead all receivers. Collin Taylor added four receptions for 81 yards and a touchdown.
Riddell Defensive Player of the Game, jack linebacker Qumain Black led the LA KISS defense with seven and a half total tackles (six solo) and an interception. Fredrick Obi added five solo tackles. For Cleveland, Demar Robinson led the way with five and a half tackles, while Joe Powell recorded four and a half.
After the LA KISS won the coin toss and differed possession to the second half, Cleveland got on the board first when Nelson tossed a 19-yard touchdown pass to Sims. The Adrian Trevino kick split the uprights and the Gladiators took a 7-0 lead with 12:53 remaining in the first quarter. Three plays later, the LA KISS evened the score on a six-yard Stanley-to-Morgan touchdown. After Nelson scored on a three-yard quarterback-keeper, the Gladiators regained a seven-point lead with 5:44 left in the first. Then Stanley tossed a six-yard touchdown to Morgan and, after the Chris Gould kick was good, the score was tied at 14. As time expired in the first quarter, Nelson hooked up with Taylor for a 28-yard score. The PAT was good and Cleveland led 21-14 at the end of the quarter.
After the LA KISS opened the second quarter with a turnover on downs, Mike Lewis forced DJ Brandel to fumble and the LA KISS regained possession. The home team quickly capitalized on Cleveland’s turnover when Stanley his Colin Madison for a four-yard touchdown. Gould’s kick split the uprights and the score was even at 21 with 5:03 remaining in the half. Two plays after an unsuccessful onside attempt by the LA KISS, Sims was good for six on a seven-yard pass from Nelson. The kick was good and the Gladiators were up by seven points. Then, with four seconds remaining in the half, the LA KISS eliminated the Gladiators seven-point lead on a 11-yard Stanley-to-Morgan touchdown. At halftime the LA KISS and Cleveland Gladiators were even at 28 points.
When the LA KISS struck first in the second half, they took their first lead of the game. On fourth down, Stanley plowed through the goal line and scored a one-yard QB sneak. After a successful kick, the LA KISS led 35-28 with 8:16 left in the third quarter. After Cleveland couldn’t muster anything on offense and turned the ball over on downs, Stephens hauled in a 41-yard touchdown pass from Stanley and the LA KISS led by 14 points. At the end of the third quarter, the LA KISS led 42-to-28.
The LA KISS defense continued to shine and opened the final period with a Qumain Black interception. Then Stanley tossed a 14-yard touchdown pass, which gave Stephens his second hat trick in as many games. The LA KISS led by 21 points with 7:55 remaining. The Gladiators had a chance to cut their deficit to 14 points on a 15-yard Sims touchdown reception, but the PAT was wide left and they trailed by 15. Two plays after Cleveland completed a successful onside kick, Nelson and Sims were good for six on a 28-yard pass. Morgan, on the immediate play following Cleveland’s unsuccessful onside kick, recorded his third touchdown of the night on an eight-yard pass from Stanley and the LA KISS led by 15. Then Nelson scrambled for a one-yard touchdown to cut the LA KISS lead to 8. Following an onside recovery, which they retuned for a touchdown, the Gladiators had a chance to even the game at 56 points. But Nelson couldn’t find an open receiver and the LA KISS retained a two-point lead with a minute left in the game. On the ensuing possession, Stanley converted on fourth and goal and hooked up with Stephens for a seven-yard score. Gould’s PAT spilt the uprights, which gave the LA KISS a two-score lead with 35 seconds remaining in the game. Cleveland attempted to surmount a last-minute comeback and Sims caught a 19-yard touchdown to bring the Gladiators within two points. However, it was for naught and an onside kick recovery my Morgan clinched the win for the LA KISS. The LA KISS ultimately walked out victorious, and defeated the Gladiators by a score of 63-to-61.
Next week the LA KISS will start their final two-game road trip of the 2016 regular season and travel to Jacksonville to take on the Sharks (5-9) at the Jacksonville Veterans Memorial Arena on Saturday, July 23rd. The game, which is set to kickoff at 4:00 PM PST, will be available to be streamed live via WatchESPN/ESPN and on the ESPN App.
Under Armour Offensive Player of the Game – LAK QB Nathan Stanley
Riddell Defensive Player of the Game – LAK JLB Qumain Black
J. Lewis Small Playmaker of the Game – LAK WR DJ Stephens
Cutter Catch of the Game – CLE WR Collin Taylor’s 28-yard TD catch
Reception AFL Highlight of the Game – LAK DB Qumain Black’s interception in the fourth quarter
Photo: LA KISS’ official Instagram
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