07/29/2011 11:55 AM
Playoff Capsule: Cleveland Gladiators
The Cleveland Gladiators return to the playoffs for the first time since 2008. Cleveland missed the postseason last year, but made it to the National Conference Championship game in 2008. The Gladiators lost to the eventual ArenaBowl XXII champs, Philadelphia Soul.
It’s Kurt Rocco’s time to shine at quarterback. A season ending injury to John Dutton in Week 1 threw Rocco into the starting lineup, and he put together a solid rookie year. He threw for 3,834 yards with 72 touchdowns and a 64.4 completion percentage.
With a young quarterback, it’s also up to the defense to lead the team. Cleveland’s 50.2 points per game average is the fewest among the playoff teams. The defense gave up 46.8 points per game, third best in the AFL. Tim Cheatwood had a league-high 12.5 sacks and Anthony Hoke added 7.5. Levy Brown led the AFL with 119 tackles.
The Gladiators lost wide receiver Troy Bergeron and offensive lineman Cliff Louis to the NFL. Louis became a starter late in the season. The Gladiators lose 1,113 receiving yards and 30 touchdowns in Bergeron. Dominick Goodman and Robert Redd have been solid receiver for Cleveland all season and should fill the void of Bergeron’s loss. Goodman led the team with 120 catches for 1,300 yards, but had a more modest 13 touchdowns. Redd finished second with 98 grabs for 1,279 yards, but equals Bergeron with 30 touchdowns.
Playoff Capsule: Georgia Force
The Georgia Force returned to its winning ways of the past after returning to the AFL for its first season since 2008.
But the Force does have quarterback questions entering the postseason. Coach Dean Cokinos said he will play the best player who gives Georgia “the best chance to win.” Brett Elliott tossed 4,454 yards and 90 touchdowns this season. However, he was pulled after a five-interception first half on July 9 against the Chicago Rush. Darnell Kennedy began seeing more time and earned Offensive Player of the Week honors after his first start in the regular season finale. He threw for 373 yards and seven touchdowns last week.
Keep an eye on wide receiver/kick return man C.J. Johnson. He returned five kicks for touchdowns, tied with the VooDoo’s P.J. Berry for most in the AFL. Johnson finished the year with 3,295 all-purpose yards. The Force also has Maurice Purify back after the UFL’s delay in its season. He’s a clear favorite for offensive rookie of the year. In 16 games, Purify caught 129 passes for 1,650 yards and 46 touchdowns. Larry Shipp led Georgia with 1,784 receiving yards and gives the Force three exciting receivers.
On defense, Georgia’s gotten to opposing quarterbacks 35 times, the third most sacks in the AFL. The Force also has Kicker of the Year candidate Carlos Martinez. He went 11-for-18 on field goals and led the AFL with a 91.1 success rate (113-for-124) on the all-important PAT.