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Stevens Leads Cobras to First Victory, 66-32

May 22, 1988|LONNIE WHITE | Times Staff Writer

The Los Angeles Cobras won their first Arena Football League game when they defeated the Pittsburgh Gladiators, 66-32, Saturday night before a crowd of 6,236 at the Sports Arena.

Led by quarterback Matt Stevens' 9 touchdown passes and 347 yards passing, the Cobras bounced back from last week's 61-45 loss to the Gladiators.

Playing their best defense of the season, the Cobras (1-3) dominated the high-scoring Pittsburgh offense.

The Gladiators (3-1) were forced to play their third-string quarterback Stuart Mitchell in the fourth quarter after the Cobras knocked starter Mike Hohensee (re-injured left shoulder) and his backup Brendan Folmar (mild concussion) out of the game with injuries.

Last week, Hohensee and Folmar passed for a total of 242 yards and 6 touchdowns against the Cobras.

Stevens, who was 16 of 19, was on target from the start, completing his first 6 passes for 4 touchdowns. He finished the first half 7 of 8 for 178 yards and 5 touchdowns.

The highlight of the first half came when Stevens hit a streaking Joe Kelly on a 49-yard touchdown pass, an Arena Football League record.

Stevens, who has now thrown for 15 touchdowns against the Gladiators, gave credit to his offensive line.

"Everything came together tonight, the protection was just great. The receivers were just as open last week, but we did not always have time to hit them."

Cobra Coach Ray Willsey was pleased with the victory and Stevens' performance.

"I have never been around a quarterback who had such a hot hand," said Willsey, who coached with the Raiders for 10 years.

The first half ended with a flourish, when a bench-clearing brawl broke out resulting with two ejections, Pittsburgh's Earnest Adams and the Cobras' Tony Palamara. The Cobra defense then finished off the half with a goal-line stand to give Los Angeles a 34-25 lead.

Stevens continued with his hot hand in the second half, hitting receiver Gary Mullen for three touchdowns of 45, 31 and 12 yards; and receiver Wade Lockett with a 20-yard score.

Stevens' backup Eric Beavers finished up the fourth quarter by throwing a 27-yard touchdown strike to Kelly.

Said Willsey: "We have to now get ready for a short week. Everyone is excited about the win, but Monday we are out there again."

The Cobras are now in three-way tie for third with the New York Knights and the New England Steamrollers. The Steamrollers will visit the Cobras this Thursday night at the Sports Arena.

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