Offseason changes foiled as Power loses opener

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With less than 10 minutes remaining in the third quarter of its season-opener, it looked as if the Power's offseason plan was coming to fruition.

The Power held a 17-point lead behind a dominant offensive effort in the game's first 35 minutes, one largely led by its two major offseason acquisitions, quarterback Tommy Grady and wide receiver Prechae Rodriguez.

The game's final segment, though, was more representative of last season's 4-14 finish -- as was the final result.

Grady threw for 271 yards and five touchdowns in his franchise debut, but the Power was held to just eight points in the final 26 minutes as they squandered a double-digit, second-half lead in a 63-53 loss to the Cleveland Gladiators Saturday at Consol Energy Center.

"I think we have guys in that locker room that are accustomed to winning and they relaxed a little bit," Power coach Derek Stingley said.

"We didn't underestimate our opponent, but we just thought that we were still in control of the game, but then Cleveland got some bounces that went their way."

After finishing last in the Arena Football League in scoring offense in 2013, the Power had little trouble putting up points early. It scored on each of its first five drives, three of which ended with touchdown passes from Grady to Rodriguez.

In a 57-second span in the third quarter, the Power (0-1) opened its lead to 17 points after a Grady touchdown pass was followed by a fumble recovery in the end zone on the ensuing kickoff.

From that moment, though, little went right.

The Gladiators (1-0) got two 4-yard touchdown runs from quarterback Chris Dieker in the opening two minutes of the fourth quarter for a 49-45 lead.

Dieker would add two more touchdowns later in the quarter -- one passing and one rushing -- as Cleveland opened up a game that once appeared in doubt.

Dieker finished with 251 passing yards and nine touchdowns (five passing and four rushing).

"We know, offensively, that we have the ability to go down there and score," Dieker said. "We knew we were going to go down and score a few times. The defense just had to come up with some big stops and they did."

Rodriguez had 105 receiving yards and three touchdowns while fellow new addition Shawn Kauleinamoku had a game-high 10 receptions for 95 yards and a touchdown.

"We have good players, they have good players, but with the talent we have on this roster, we should beat Cleveland," Grady said. "We've just got to learn from this and move on."

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