Gladiators win championship
Zach Bloemen blocked a field goal attempt with a minute remaining Saturday as the Grand Junction Gladiators won the APFL2 championship by defeating the Denver Titans 20-17 at Shea Stadium.
The Gladiators, in their third season, will play in an APFL2 national championship Sept. 15 in Las Vegas against an opponent to be decided.
Adam Swanson took an interception back for a touchdown, and Kevin Brunn and Keis Means had touchdown runs for the Gladiators.
“It was awesome,” Gladiators coach Will Jones said. “We just want to keep going on with volunteer work and spending more time in the community. We definitely want to thank the fans. Without them and everybody traveling it wouldn’t have made this possible.”
With the victory, Gladiators player and owner Ed Johnson brought the city a championship after founding the team three years ago. Johnson played in the Arena Football League and wanted to bring his experiences to Grand Junction.
“For me it means a lot,” Johnson said. “I’ve put in a lot of work toward this, a lot of sacrifice on the financial end and the stress on the family.”
And the title helps squash the talk that there is little football talent in the Grand Valley.
“I’ve had a chip on my shoulder a few years about the teams over there,” Johnson said. “A lot of them just look at us as farmer guys, that we don’t have talent. It’s the competitiveness in me. They say we don’t have athletes, we can’t do this — it just fuels my fire.”
The championship is nice, Johnson said, but the Gladiators are about more than victories in football.
“I’ve got guys being active in the community, becoming better people, better dads, better brothers, better husbands,” Johnson said. “And a lot of times that’s a bigger payoff than anything.”