The Washington Commandos lost all hope for an Arenabowl I bid last week, but they ended their season on a winning note last night when they defeated the league-leading Pittsburgh Gladiators, 52-31, at Capital Centre.
A crowd of 10,866 saw the Commandos wind up their inaugural season with a 2-4 record, while Pittsburgh heads to the championship game Aug. 1 against either Denver or Chicago with a 4-2 record.
The Commandos lost three games this season by a total of three points and they acted last night as if they were trying to make up for their frustrations.
Washington scored 21 points in the fourth quarter to stop the Gladiators, who came into the game with the league's No. 1 defense and its top receiver (Lanham's Russell Hairston).
The first half, oddly enough, was marked by defense. The Commandos provided the most memorable example when, leading, 13-6, in the second quarter, they stopped the Gladiators six times from within the 16-yard line.
Pittsburgh had a first-and-goal at the 2-yard line on its third play, when Pittsburgh's John McClennan dove to catch a 12-yard pass. But a failed run, a missed pass and a deflected pass left the Gladiators still at the 2 on fourth down.
Finally, Craig Federico squeezed over the goal line. But Walter Holman blocked Lee Larsen's attempted conversion and the Commandos led, 13-12, with 3:50 left in the half.
Lenny Taylor gave Washington a 19-12 halftime lead when he caught a 5-yard screen pass with 1:23 left. Dale Castro missed the extra point.
The teams traded touchdowns early in the third quarter. Hairston grabbed a 28-yard pass for the Gladiators and Steve Griffin followed with a 33-yarder for Washington. Both conversions missed.
Dwayne Dixon caught an 18-yard pass to make it 31-18 going into the fourth quarter.
Early in the final period, the nets helped cost Washington seven points, when two Commandos couldn't come up with a net-hitting kick. A Gladiator fell on the ball to make the score 31-25.
Washington's Steve Griffin took a pass from Rich Ingold on a crossing pattern to make it 37-25 and Dixon caught a two-point conversion pass to make it 39-25 with 9:45 left.
Ingold culminated two drives with touchdown keepers, one with 5:52 left and one with 57 seconds left, to close the scoring.