The Duke City Gladiators continue to steam ahead in their quest of a second straight Champions Indoor Football title.
But they had to do a lot of sweating to do it.
On Saturday night at Tingley Coliseum, they rallied to beat the archrival Amarillo Venom 70-62 in the Southern Conference title game before an announced crowd of 3,548 that was in full throat for much of the second half.
Duke City’s Robert Kent threw for seven TDs without an interception and the defense foiled a last-minute drive by the Venom to hang on for the victory. Sedrick Johnson had four scoring catches and Dello Davis three.
Early on, though, the Venom was in charge, leading 42-26 in the closing seconds of the second period. But then 23 straight points by Duke City changed the game.
“Some victories are sweeter than others,” Gladiators coach Dominic Bramante said in the euphoric moments after the game while accepting congratulations from Amarillo QB Nate Davis. “To come from 16 points behind and win, it doesn’t get any better than that. This was a war.”
Moments later he addressed the crowd during a trophy presentation celebrating Duke City’s conference crown.
“We have one more step to take, one more hill to climb,” he screeched. “And we need each and every one of you here.”
The Gladiators (10-3) now advance to the championship game against the Salina Liberty (9-4), which won the Northern title Saturday with a 44-42 victory over the visiting Omaha Beef (8-5).
And, for the second straight year, the championship game will be played at Tingley, this time on July 13.
The Gladiators and Liberty split their two-game season series, with Duke City beating Salina 43-26 at Tingley last week to secure the league’s top seed and home-field edge throughout the postseason.
Early in Saturday’s game, it appeared Davis and his Venom teammates would be moving on.
He connected on his first 14 passes and had the Venom scoring seemingly at will, getting TDs on its first six possessions.
But after those first 14 throws, he went only 18-for-38.
“He’s a great coach,” Davis said of Bramante. “They changed their game plan, made adjustments.”
It was the third time this season the Gladiators prevailed over the Venom (8-5) at Tingley
It also was the Gladiators’ 12th straight home league victory. Included are three triumphs in the 2018 postseason. Amarillo, meanwhile, fell on the road for the eighth time in nine games dating to last year.
Davis finished with a total of 73 TD passes this season. Included were nine in an 88-62 victory over Duke City in Amarillo nine weeks ago.
Gladiators 70, Venom 62
Amarillo 21 21 7 13—62
Duke City 14 20 22 14—70
Leading passers: A, Nate Davis 281 yards, 6 TDs, no INTs; DC, Robert Kent 217 yards, 7 TDs, no INTs.
Leading rushers: A, Davis, 7 yards, 2 TDs; DC, Romello Brown, 48 yards, 2 TDs.
Leading receivers: A. Xavier Amney, 10 catches, 111 yards, 3 TDs; DC, Sedrick Johnson 4 catches, 60 yards, 4 TDs; Dello Davis 6 catches, 108 yards 3 TDs.