SAN DIEGO— The LA KISS (7-10) were eliminated from the 2016 AFL postseason after suffering a defeat to the Cleveland Gladiators by a final score of 56-to-52 in front of 4,269 fans at the Valley View Casino Center.
Special teams played a significant factor in the loss, as the LA KISS were unsuccessful on four point after attempts and gave up a kick return touchdown, as well as a bar-ball recovery touchdown.
“We didn’t make enough plays to win the game,” said LA KISS Head Coach, Omarr Smith. “This summer, we are going to improve from myself all the way down to the interns.”
Nathan Stanley led the LA KISS offense by completing 19-of-34 pass attempts for 205 yards, five touchdowns and an interception.
(Photo Credit: Jevone Moore)
J. Lewis Small Playmaker of the Game, Donovan Morgan hauled in nine receptions for 132 yards and three touchdowns to lead all receivers. DJ Stephens snagged five receptions for 25 yards and one score. Under Armour Offensive Player of the Game, Rory Nixon rushed for 20 yards and scored three total touchdowns, two on the ground and one through the air.
For the Gladiators, quarterback, Arvell Nelson completed 13-of-26 pass attempts for 202 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions. Collin Taylor caught eight passes for 95 yards and a touchdown. Devin Wilson registered two receptions for 55 yards and scored once.
Riddell Defensive Player of the Game, Josh Victorian tallied 6 solo tackles and one interception to lead the LA KISS defense. Fredrick Obi added 5 tackles. For Cleveland, Joe Powell led the way with seven tackles and an interception return touchdown. Kelvin Rodgers tallied six tackles.
After the LA KISS won the coin toss and differed possession to the second half, Cleveland struck first on a 21-yard pass from Nelson to Manley. The Ardian Trevino kick was wide left and the Gladiators led 6-0. On the play following a failed Cleveland onside kick attempt, Nixon broke through the goal line for a two-yard score. Garrett Lindholm’s kick was no good and the score was tied at six with nine minutes remaining. Cleveland kick returner, Larry Beavers returned the ensuing kickoff 58 yards for a touchdown and the Gladiators led 13-6. The LA KISS drove the ball all the way to Cleveland’s one-yard line, but Stanley’s fourth down pass was intercepted, and returned for a 50-yard touchdown, by Joe Powell. The PAT was good and the trailed by 13 points with 1:36 remaining in the quarter. At the end of the first quarter, the LA KISS tailed the Gladiators by a score of 20-6.
On the third play of the second quarter, the LA KISS got within eight points when Stanley tossed a 44-yard touchdown to Morgan. After Clevan Thomas intercepted a Nelson pass and returned it 36 yards, Stephens was good for six, on a four –yard pass from Stanley. The kick split the uprights and the LA KISS cut Cleveland’s lead to one. On Cleveland’s ensuing possession, Phillip-Keith Manley rumbled four yards into the end zone and Cleveland extended their lead to a 27-to-19 margin at the one-minute warning. With three seconds remaining in the first half, Morgan made an outstanding one-handed, seven-yard touchdown grab to bring the LA KISS within two points. At halftime, Cleveland led, 27-25.
The LA KISS opened the second half with a nine-play, 46-yard drive that ended with a nine-yard rushing touchdown by Nixon. The Lindholm point after attempt found the uprights and the LA KISS took their first lead of the game, 32-27. Following a Victorian interception, Morgan hauled his hat trick score, a 27-yard reception from Stanley, which gave Los Angeles a 12-point lead with 3:52 remaining in the quarter. Then Taylor hauled in a 16-yard touchdown reception from Nelson, which cut the LA KISS lead to five points. At the end of the third quarter, the score was LA KISS 39, Cleveland Gladiators 34.
The LA KISS stuck first in the final period of play when Nixon scurried in a two-yard rushing touchdown. After a successful PAT, the LA KISS led 46-34. Cleveland countered with a 27-yard Nelson-to-Wilson touchdown pass to cut LA’s lead to five with 6:38 left in the contest. After the LA KISS turned the ball over on downs, Nelson scored on a one-yard quarterback keeper. The two-point conversion attempt was good and Cleveland led 49-46 with 39 seconds left in regulation. The ensuing kickoff bounced off the field goal bar and was recovered by Beavers, who ran it in for a touchdown. A successful PAT gave Cleveland a 56-46 lead with 30 seconds remaining. After he returned the kick off 39 yards, Williams caught an 11-yard touchdown from Stanley, which brought the LA KISS within four points. An onside recovery solidified Cleveland’s victory and they walked out victorious by a final score of 56-to-52.
Under Armour Offensive Player of the Game – LAK FB Rory Nixon
Riddell Defensive Player of the Game – LAK DB Josh Victorian
Lewis Small Playmaker of the Game – LAK WR Donovan Morgan
Cutter Catch of the Game – LAK Donovan Morgan’s one-handed touchdown catch in the second quarter
AFL Highlight of the Game – CLE Larry Beaver’s kick return touchdown