CLEVELAND - Soul coach Mike Hohensee and Cleveland coach Steve Thonn had enough players to finish the Soul's 59-41 loss to the Gladiators on 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 defensive back Joe Phinisee and fullback/linebacker Tim Cheatwood also watched the waning seconds from the locker room as tempers rose even if the scores didn't.
It began with jawing and trash-talking in pregame warm-ups. Soul lineman Darnell Whitely said Cheatwood threw a punch after running through Soul warm-ups.
"It was all an accident," Hohensee said. "Our player's helmet ended up on their side and he misunderstood."
However, a spokesman for the Soul (3-7) said the incident was caught on videotape and will be forwarded to the league office.
"We lost our cool," said Soul receiver Donovan Morgan, who raised his team-leading reception total to 79, grabbing nine 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 and I'll accept the consequences. It really wasn't me, I'm not that guy."
Nevertheless, he wasn't totally able to give referee Tony Cannella's crew a pass.
"Sometimes, when you miss a call, things can snowball," Perkins said. "It's important to be right on the money with everything. We might have lost our cool a little bit as a unit."
Cleveland (6-3) dominated the game early on, if not statistically then on the scoreboard. But the Soul had actually worked their way back into the game, scoring 14 unanswered points to pull within three of the Gladiators, 23-20, at halftime after Cleveland had built a 23-6 lead.
But the Gladiators' Russell Monk scored a rare rushing touchdown on the 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 that Soul returner Keith Stokes advanced the ball only 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.