Duke City Gladiators return man Dello Davis returns the game’s opening kickoff for a touchdown Saturday against the Mesquite Marshals at Tingley Coliseum. (ROBERTO E. ROSALES/JOURNAL)
The Duke City Gladiators broke a recent pattern of slow starts in grand fashion Saturday night in a 70-24 victory over the Mesquite Marshals in a Champions Indoor Football league game at Tingley Coliseum.
Dello Davis, a 5-foot-7, 165-pound receiver, got the game off to a rousing start when he returned the opening kickoff 52 yards for a score to get the Gladiators (2-1) in high gear in their runaway victory over the Marshals (1-3).
The crowd was estimated to be just under 2,000 by team co-owner and GM Matt Caward.
The kick return was one of Davis’ four touchdowns on the night, with the other three coming on scoring receptions of 5, 8 and 8 yards from quarterback Bryan Randall, giving Davis a team-high seven TDs this season.
He said the opening score was a key to setting the game’s tone.
“It was super important – it let people know that we’re here,” Davis said on the field shortly after the game. “We’re rolling now. I’m here to change the game and make a big difference.”
But the four scores were not his most in one game.
“I once had six in one game,” he said. “I was two shy, so I’m kind of sad. But that’s all right.”
Also coming up big offensively was fellow receiver Brock Ringo, who also had three TD receptions.
Randall accounted for seven touchdowns, by throwing for five and rushing for two. Taylor Genuser threw for one TD and veteran running back Landrick Brody scored late on a 1-yard run.
Brody’s score kind of broke the ice for him personally, for it was his first TD of the year.
“It’s been a long time, it’s Week 3,” Brody said. “I wasn’t taking no for an answer today. After a while, we know we’re a tough team up front, and we’d start wearing them down.”
It was 21-0 after one quarter, which was in stark contrast to Duke City’s past two games, both on the road, against the Wichita Force and San Angelo Bandits. In those outings, the Gladiators were outscored by a cumulative 28-3 in the first 15 minutes.
After leading 37-10 halftime, the Gladiators didn’t let up, scoring a touchdown on each of their five possessions as they won a league game by the largest margin in their two-year history. The 46-point gap beat last year’s 47-10 road victory against the San Angelo Bandits.
On the defensive side, defensive back Jason Serda, a Manzano High alum, led the way with 14 total tackles, including 12 solo. Roosevelt Falls, who played mostly linebacker Saturday, had 11 total tackles, including a team-high 2½ sacks. His sack total for the past two games is 6½.
In total, the Gladiators intercepted three Mesquite passes thrown by Aaron Washington and recovered three Marshals’ fumbles.
“You don’t want to say you’re not happy after winning 70-24,” Gladiators coach Dominic Bramante said while accepting postgame congratulations. “But we’ve still got work to do. We’ve got Amarillo coming next week.”
PURPLE HEART CEREMONY: “It was just an honor to be honored by the Purple Heart Association as only the second team in the country that’s ever been honored as an official Purple Heart organization,” said the Gladiators’ Caward, who is a veteran who served in the Army from 1996-2000.
“And they presented us with a proclamation that was signed by the mayor of the city and presented us with a proclamation signed by the national office of Purple Heart, and we’re really honored to be a part and do things for the veterans.”
Caward said a plaque commemorating the event will be displayed in the Gladiators’ locker room.
UPCOMING: The Gladiators continue with the second leg of their three-game CIF homestand against the Amarillo Venom on April 3, the only Sunday date on the home schedule. All other games are set for Saturday nights.
New Mexico Stars
The metro area’s other pro indoor football team was listed as winning a 2-0 forfeit over the West Texas (El Paso) Renegades on Saturday.
Stars co-owner Tracy Duran said his team made the trip to El Paso on Friday for the nonleague game, but it was called off Saturday because of what he said were unplayable field conditions.
The Stars’ originally were to face American Indoor Football league foe Abilene this week, but that team folded earlier this month and New Mexico filled the void with a date with West Texas.