CLEVELAND - Soul coach Mike Hohensee had enough players to finish the Soul's 59-41 loss to the Cleveland Gladiators Saturday night . . . but it was touch and go for a while.
The Soul's Brandon Perkins, Larry Brackins and Damian Walker were sent to the locker room in the closing minutes of a game that got uglier with every tick of the fourth-quarter clock. Gladiators star defensive back Joe Phinisee and another of his teammates also watched the waning seconds from the locker room as tempers rose even if the scores didn't.
The brouhaha avoided turning into an imbroglio, but just barely. It began with jawing and trash-talking in pregame warmups. Soul players and a spokesman accused a Cleveland player of throwing a punch, captured on videotape, which the Soul plan to forward to the league office.
"We lost our cool," said Soul receiver Donovan Morgan, who continued to add to his team-leading totals in receptions with nine, good for 132 yards and four touchdowns. "From the beginning of the game we lowered our standards."
Perkins, who said things began to spiral out of control after he was whistled - on a late call - for an illegal defense (leaving the box) said, "I'm a man and I did it."
The Soul had actually worked their way back into the game, scoring 14 unanswered points to pull within three of the Gladiators, 23-20, after Cleveland had built a 23-6 lead.
But the Gladiators come out fired up for the second half. Russell Monk scores a rare rushing touchdown on the Gladiators' first position after Perkins' illegal defense flag, which came as the Soul had stopped Cleveland on a critical fourth down.
Matt Denny's subsequent kick went four yards deep into the end zone, which wasn't that bad. What was bad was Soul returner Keith Stokes only advancing the ball three yards. The safety added two more points to the Gladiators' swiftly climbing point total.
Robert Redd took the ensuing kick back 40 yards, and Cleveland quarterback Kurt Rocco finished it off with a quick scoring toss to Thyron Lewis in the left corner of the end zone.
Vena answered with a quick 33-yard scoring toss to Morgan on the first play after the ensuing kickoff, helping the Soul climb back into it, 39-27.
Vena hit Morgan on a fourth-quarter 40-yard scoring strike when Morgan left Gladiators defender Joe Phinisee so far behind that it looked like he'd stopped to tie his shoes.
But Thyron Lewis took a Rocco pass and only Jerome Hayes' speedy was able to keep it from turning into six more points. Instead, it was a 36-yard catch and run.