Albuquerque, NM - On Saturday night, the best gladiator was not the biggest one on the field, but rather the one with the most heart.
Defensive back Jayson Serda, an Albuquerque native who attended Manzano High School and later played at Eastern New Mexico University, led the Duke City Gladiators (2-2) to a 45-38 victory over the Amarillo Venom (3-3) in Tingley Coliseum.
It appeared all too easy at the start as the Gladiators garnered a 33-10 lead at halftime. Duke City reached 142 total yards to only 70 total yards from Amarillo. Gladiators’ quarterback Kasey Peters and wide out James Cleveland were clicking with seven receptions, 86 yards, and three touchdowns at the half.
But the Venom was able to strike back with a 21-0 run to start the second half in part to a pair of touchdown runs from running back Martee Tenner.
Duke City head coach Dominic Bramante said it was difficult for his team to play with a double-digit lead.
“The goal is always play four quarters of football and it’s a process,” Bramante said. “In reality, we’re only six weeks old so we’re still learning the process.”
With the Gladiators’ lead trimmed down to 33-31 with 10:14 left, Serda flipped the script with a momentum shifting 33-yard touchdown kickoff return. As Amarillo tried to answer with a score of their own, Serda proceeded to intercept Amarillo quarterback Nate Davis with 8 minutes left. As time went on, the Gladiators were able to hold on to seal their second win in Tingley Coliseum of the season. Serda also added 13 tackles, a game-high.
The “Duke City” local said his performance was even sweeter playing in front of his hometown.
“Best feeling in the world,” Serda said before embracing his family with emotion. “All my friends and family watch me every game so I had to show up. Amarillo’s a great team and we knew it was going to be a close one.”
Gladiators’ Kasey Peters finished with 11-19 passing, 142 yards, four touchdowns, and one interception. Remarkably, Duke City possessed the football for only 18:35, compared to 41:10 for Amarillo.
Bramante said the triumph certainly helps his team grow.
“At a professional level, it always feels good to get a win. They’re always hard fought. Whenever you beat a team like the Amarillo Venom, we’ll take it,” Bramante said.
This Sunday April 26th, Duke City welcomes the Texas Stealth (NPIFL) to Tingley Coliseum at 4 p.m. doors open at 2.