The Duke City Gladiators completed the best Champions Indoor Football regular season in their four-year history Sunday with a 56-49 victory over the host Wichita Force.
The win gives the Gladiators (10-2) the top record in the league and the No. 1 overall seed in the eight-team tournament with home field throughout. Until this year, Duke City never had a home playoff game.
Duke City’s opening-round opponent will be a familiar rival – Wichita, which finished with the eighth seed and a 4-8 record.
Duke City was 3-0 vs. the Force this year, with two of the triumphs coming on the road.
Bramante said his team reacted in a business-like manner after Sunday’s victory.
“We know we’re all starting over again at 0-0 and now it’s going to be win or go home,” he said. “We’ll enjoy this victory on the ride home and then get to work for Saturday.”
Duke City QB Caleb Holbrook threw six TD passes without an interception against the Force, which scored twice in the final minute, including a TD as time expired.
Jared Elmore had three of the Gladiators’ TD receptions and totaled 145 yards. Dello Davis also caught three touchdown passes and had 111 yards.
An unheralded star for the Gladiators was Oliver Lumpkin, who slid over from his usual guard position to play the whole game at center.
“He didn’t have one bad snap,” Bramante said.
Duke City’s league-best rush defense was particularly stiff Sunday, holding the Force to no yards on 12 carries. Jayson Serda led the unit in tackles with seven and also had two pass breakups.
“I also want to also give credit to my staff,” Bramante said. “We’re now going to go out and try to win a title for our fans and the city of Albuquerque.