The Washington Commandos saw their playoff hopes all but squashed last night, losing to the Pittsburgh Gladiators, 30-23, in overtime before a season-high crowd of 3,760 at Patriot Center.

Brendan Folmar threw a 17-yard touchdown pass to Julius Dawkins less than two minutes into the extra period to provide the winning points for the Gladiators, who moved to 3-4 and back into playoff contention.

Dawkins also scored on second-quarter passes of 18 and nine yards from Folmar, who got the starting nod over Larry Barretta.

The Commandos (2-5) are tied for last with Albany in the six-team league with one game remaining. Four teams will make the playoffs.

"I don't know what happened," said Commandos Coach Mike Hohensee. "That's the way it's been for this team all year. We're always so close."

The Commandos appeared to have the go-ahead touchdown in the bag in regulation. With the score tied at 23, Washington faced a first-and-goal from inside the 1-yard line with 50 seconds remaining. But Jeff Blankenship fumbled on second down, and Karl Coles recovered for the Gladiators with 22 seconds left.

After Dawkins's touchdown in overtime, the Commandos still had a chance. Arena Football does not use a sudden-death format; each team must get at least one possession.

But quarterback Mike Rhodes's last-ditch pass on fourth down was intercepted by Billy Osborn.

Ex-University of Maryland kicker Dan Plocki tied the game nine minutes into the fourth quarter with a 29-yard field goal. Plocki, an all-ACC kicker in 1988, earlier kicked field goals of 19 and 26 yards.

The Commandos had cut the lead to 23-20 just 3 1/2 minutes into the second half. On their first offensive play of the half, Rhodes hit the streaking Chris Armstrong down the left sideline for a 42-yard touchdown.

The Commandos got a big break late in the third quarter when an apparent three-yard Aric Anderson touchdown run was called back for holding. On the next play, the Commandos' Ray Puryear picked off Folmar's pass in the end zone and returned it to the eight.

The Commandos took a moral victory into the locker room at halftime, holding Pittsburgh to a 17-yard field goal by Rusty Fricke with 27 seconds remaining after the Gladiators had first-and-goal at the 1.

"That was the toughest game we've had all year," said Armstrong, who had 12 catches for 172 yards and was named the game's MVP. "We played the best we could for 60 minutes, but somebody has to lose."