The Duke City Gladiators built a 26-point first-half lead and then hung on in a frantic fourth quarter to earn a 45-38 win over the Amarillo Venom in a Champions Indoor Football league game at Tingley Coliseum on Saturday night.
An announced crowd of 1,014 saw Duke City QB Kasey Peters throw for four scores as the Gladiators (2-2) took a 33-7 lead late in the second period.
Three of the TD throws went to receiver James Cleveland, covering 17, 23 and 4 yards.
But in the first 13-plus minutes of the second half, Amarillo (3-3) dominated.
The Venom scored three touchdowns to close the gap to 33-31 with 10:42 remaining in the final quarter.
That set up the turning point of the game.
On the ensuing kickoff, the Gladiators’ Jayson Serda, a Manzano High and Eastern New Mexico alum, ran 33 yards for a score. Combined with the PAT by Zeke Arevalo, that made it 40-31.
Duke City soon padded its lead to 42-31 when DE John Fernandez sacked Amarillo’s Nate Davis for a safety. The Gladiators made it 45-31 with 1:44 left when Arevelo hit a 43-yard FG.
Amarillo scored again with 15 seconds left to cut its deficit to 45-38 and then recovered the onside kick. But on the Venom’s next snap, from their 16-yard line, Davis was sacked by Duke City nose tackle Randy Salmon, who was signed Thursday. Time then ran out.
CHANGE OF PLANS: The Gladiators originally were to play an exhibition game next Sunday against a team of metro-area firefighters and police. The Gladiators said that game fell through and the team would instead play against the Texas Stealth, a member of the newly formed North American Indoor Football League.