The Soul squandered a 17-point lead in just over three minutes and lost to the undefeated Cleveland Gladiators, 54-52, after a last-second touchdown at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio.
The Soul held a 52-35 lead with 3:05 left in the fourth quarter after an eight-yard touchdown run from fullback Derrick Ross.
What happened next was an unlikely series of events to say the least.
The Gladiators used up 1:29 seconds to score a touchdown when quarterback Shane Austin completed a 19-yard score to wide receiver Thyron Lewis and cut the deficit to 52-42.
The Gladiators then made the obvious decision to attempt an onside kick and managed to recover it at their own 11-yard line. This time, it only took Cleveland 30 seconds to put up six points after Austin found wide receiver Dominick Goodman for a four-yard score. The Gladiators missed the extra point, which left the score at 52-48.
Despite having their deficit cut down to four in a matter of seconds, the Soul still held serve and could run the clock out if they regained possession. Unfortunately for the Soul, that did not happen, as the Gladiators recovered yet another onside kick.
The Soul defense held just enough to force a fourth down just three yards away from the end zone. On the final play of the game, Austin scrambled around, flung the ball in the air and it somehow fell into the waiting arms of Lewis as time expired.
“It’s a tough way to lose,” Soul head coach Clint Dolezel said after the game. “We were able to take advantage of the opportunities early, but you need to do that for all four quarters. We didn’t get it done in the fourth quarter tonight and it cost us.”
The unlikely win for the Gladiators kept their surprising unbeaten season in tact at 9-0. The Soul’s brief two-game winning streak came to an end and dropped them to 5-5 for the second season in a row.
The Gladiators outscored the Soul 33-14 in the fourth quarter, including 19 unanswered.
Besides the fourth-quarter collapse, the Soul played a pretty efficient game on both sides of the ball. Quarterback Dan Raudabaugh completed 20 of his 27 pass attempts for 214 yards and tossed four touchdowns. Raudabaugh’s counterpart Austin completed 29 of his 46 attempts for 345 yards and five touchdowns, including the game winner.
Ross carried the ball 13 times for 44 yards and scored two touchdowns on the ground.
Leading the receivers was recent pickup Emory Sammons, who caught seven passes for 90 yards and a score. Goodman and Lewis, who both topped 100 yards, led Cleveland in receiving. Goodman recorded his 500th career reception during the contest as well.
The Soul offense did not commit any turnovers during Friday’s game.
The defense had a good outing as well, recovering two fumbles and gaining another stop on downs. Defensive back Rayshaun Kizer led the team with nine tackles, a fumble recovery and broke up two passes.
The Soul will return to the Wells Fargo Center Sunday, June 1 to take on the lowly San Antonio Talons (1-9) at 5 p.m.