RIO RANCHO – There is just something about Frisco that rubs the Duke City Gladiators the wrong way.
The Fighters now have a five-game winning streak over the Gladiators stretching over three Indoor Football League seasons after a 60-55 win Saturday in the Duke City home opener at the Rio Rancho Event Center.
It was a final similar to three of the previous decisions, which also were one-possession games, coming down to making plays at the end.
Unfortunately for the Gladiators — again — those critical plays did not go their way.
“They get aggressive, we’re coming at them, we’re both fighting,” Gladiator receiver Xavier Amey. “We’re both good football programs. We breathe football. It’s just unfortunate that we keep coming up short.”
Duke City coach Fred Griggs said it’s just a matter of getting a break at the right time.
“It’s timing with everything,” he said. “We miss plays at the worst times.
Just getting over that hump and being able to keep fighting. We had them where we wanted them. Had some costly turnovers at the end. We didn’t get stops. The guys fought to the end, but we just didn’t finish. Too many mistakes and we just didn’t execute enough.”
Three turnovers came at the hands of Gladiators quarterback Nate Davis in his first home game since his knee injury at the start of last season. He still looked a little rusty, tossing two first-half interceptions and a crucial pick-six in the fourth quarter.
“Offensively, just taking advantage of sudden changes and being able to control the ball when we want to control the ball outside of the turnovers,” Griggs said. “The turnovers were detrimental. Just bad timing.”
Davis did throw for four touchdowns, two each to Amey and Gary Brown, with each making a spectacular, bone-jarring touchdown catch against the boards. They combined for 10 catches and 144 yards.
The game see-sawed back and forth with 12 lead changes.
The Gladiators got a huge break at the end of the first half when Mason Newton hit Frisco quarterback T.J. Edwards in the end zone, forcing a fumble, then falling on it for a defensive TD that momentarily tied the score at 23-all with three seconds left. But the ensuing two-point kick attempt was wide setting up the Fighters for a half-ending field goal from midfield.
And Frisco was able to successfully control the ball, running for more than 100 yards, with Edwards and running back Jimmy Smith each collecting 49.
That was particularly galling for Griggs.
“Being more physical and understanding the emphasis of the game,” he said of the defensive shortcomings. “We understood that they were going to run the ball the whole time. Yet we still had half the guys running back into pass coverage, not being as aggressive as we wanted.”
Now it’s time to regroup and get ready for Tulsa, Amey said.
“We lost by one possession, a tough loss, but we’ll be back,” he said. “We’re coming back.”
SATURDAY, APRIL 8: Tulsa at Duke City, 6:05 p.m., Rio Rancho Events Center
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