Despite losing his top three receivers from last season, Cleveland Gladiators quarterback John Dutton looks like he found his new favorite target: Troy Bergeron.
Dutton and Bergeron connected for three touchdowns as visiting Cleveland defeated the Spokane Shock Saturday night, 61-55.
It was meant to be a night of celebration for Spokane, as it raised its ArenaBowl championship banner to the rafters of the Spokane Arena. The Gladiators crashed the party early, picking off Shock QB Kyle Rowley on the first drive on the way to an early 14-7 lead.
Spokane was able to keep the game close for much of the game, but Cleveland pulled away in the fourth quarter and was able to withstand a late Shock rally to seal a win in its first game of the season.
Dutton threw for 257 yards and six touchdowns on the night, three to Bergeron as well as individual scores from Robert Redd and Victor Williams. Williams also recovered the final onside kick with less than a minute to go, clinching the victory for the Gladiators.
For Spokane, Rowley went for 313 yards and seven scores and the one interception. Greg Orton and Markee White combined for five of the seven touchdowns.
Despite the win, Cleveland still has one big problem to worry about: the late injury to Dutton. The captain and team leader left the field in the fourth with an apparent Achilles tendon injury, the extent of which is not known.
Rookie Kurt Rocco took the final two drives for Cleveland, the first ending with a touchdown pass to Bergeron. More news about Dutton's injury is expected in the coming days.
With the win, Cleveland improves to 1-0 on the season going into next week's road contest with Tampa Bay. The defending champion Shock falls to 0-2 on the year.