Strong start and finish lead Power to victory

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For a quarterback to be upset with his play after leading a fourth-quarter comeback is quite unusual. But the Power's Steven Sheffield had a game that was anything but ordinary.

With just over two minutes remaining, Sheffield zipped a throw over the fingertips of Marrio Norman for a 16-yard touchdown pass to Mike Washington. The play led to six of the 27 unanswered fourth-quarter points for the Power, and served as the winning score en route to a 55-44 victory against the Cleveland Gladiators at Consol Energy Center.

The next two plays clinched the game for the Power (3-6).

Trailing, 48-44, after the touchdown pass to Washington, Cleveland quarterback Bryan Zbydniewski tossed an interception on the next play. Sheffield then threw a 34-yard touchdown pass to Julian Talley to give the Power the final score of the game and a season-high 55 points.

"I said it last week and I'm going to keep saying it, this team is much better," Power coach Derek Stingley said. "We're improving every week."

But Saturday wasn't always so successful for Sheffield.

Cleveland linebacker Joe Phinisee cut off a third-quarter Sheffield pass in the end zone and took off up the sideline. Four times a Power player dived trying to tackle Phinisee as he sprinted to a touchdown.

"I saw all these linemen and got nervous," Phinisee said. "They're some big boys, man. I [thought] I was going to get [hit] hard against that wall."

The Power was on Cleveland's 11, looking to close the gap on a 37-28 fourth-quarter deficit. Instead, that gap widened as Phinisee's 49-yard interception return gave Cleveland (2-7) a 44-28 lead that didn't last long.

The interception was the third consecutive turnover from Sheffield after he fumbled and threw another interception. All three turnovers came in the Power's scoreless third quarter.

"I'm not happy with the way I played," Sheffield said. "It was a very average performance."

While the third quarter was futile, the Power had perhaps its best first half of the year with multiple season bests.

The Power took a 28-24 lead at halftime, its highest-scoring first half of the year, as the game started just like it ended - with the Power riding some of its best play of the season. It's no coincidence Sheffield led the way.

"With Sheffield on board," Stingley said, "it makes us that much better of a football team."

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Mike Vernon: mvernon@post-gazette.com.


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