A Tale of Two Cities
In the realm of sports, the rivalry between the two cities of Pittsburgh and Cleveland rank up there with the likes of New York and Boston.. The results of two geographically close blue-collar towns vying for success translates directly to the field of play where the athletes representing the cities perform at a much more physical level.
Although the Power have only existed for two seasons, the impact of this rivalry is already very visible. Early on last season, the Power were able to out-duel Cleveland and gather a three-point lead to take over first place in the American Conference East. Later in the season, Cleveland exacted their revenge winning 67-55 knocking the Power out of playoff contention.
The intensity continued into the 2012 season as Cleveland erased an early two-score deficit to beat the Power 58-43.
Before the first meeting, Power wide out Mike Washington, who is an Aliquippa native was vocal about the rivalry between the two cities.
“Your backyard team is always your rival,” he said. “Cleveland has always been Pittsburgh’s rival for years. I know for the guys who aren’t familiar with the rivalry will get familiar.”
A few players on the Power roster have actually been able to see the rivalry from both ends. Defensive back Davion Mitchell, wide receiver Randy Hymes and lineman Jason Jones have each spent time with the Gladiators before coming to Pittsburgh.
“For me, it’s like homecoming,” Hymes said. “That’s where it all began for me playing in the Arena Football League.”
Hymes started playing in 2008 and had three touchdowns with the Gladiators. Back in April, Hymes had seven receptions for 63 yards and a score.
Mitchell has been in Cleveland more recently and actually made a bold statement about the rivalry.
“I think the Cleveland fans actually hate the Pittsburgh fans more,” he said. “They’re always talking about it.”
Mitchell spent the 2010 and 2011 season with the Gladiators and was very successful. Over his two seasons, he accumulated 59 tackles, 15 passes defended, three forced fumbles, three fumble recoveries and five interceptions.
Mitchell still keeps in touch with some of his former teammates and he says the Gladiators are coming in seeing a 2-9 football team and expecting a victory Friday night.
“They really want to win,” Mitchell said. “It’s a divisional game; a rivalry. They expect to win. I talked to some of the players already and they expect to beat us because of our record. We don’t think that way.”
The whole team is eagerly anticipating Friday’s competition and looking forward to hopefully getting their revenge on their division rival. Although the Power are edging closer toward becoming mathematically eliminated from the playoffs, a win against the 6-5 Gladiators would drastically hurt their chances at a postseason as well.
“The last time we played it was an intense game,” Hymes said. “Those guys were pretty pumped up. I’m looking for pretty much the same intensity on both sides of the ball.”
“I look forward to going down there and feeling that energy,” Mitchell added. “They were exposed last week in Iowa. We plan on going in there and banging heads with these guys.”