Soul

Soul want a win, not revenge, in Pittsburgh

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Soul want a win, not revenge, in Pittsburgh

The Soul won't call it a revenge game, even if it is one.

Saturday's matchup with the Pittsburgh Power will have something on the line, though. It will be the difference between the Soul being 0-3 in the American Conference East Division or picking up their first win in the division for a 1-2 record.

Either way, the "must-win" label is already being mentioned among the players.

"They're all must-win games," Soul quarterback Dan Raudabaugh said. "It's just how we're treating them now. ... We need to get that first win in the division and there is no better chance than this week."

You don't have to remind the Soul about those fourth-quarter problems, one of which came against Pittsburgh in Week 7. They know.

The Soul pretty much outplayed the Power in that 53-48 loss. They had more yards (313-274), ran more plays (49-48), had more first downs (21-20). But the Power did outscore the Soul 13-0 in the fourth quarter, which was the big difference.

"We took Pittsburgh lightly the last time they came in here and they came in here and handed it to us plain and simple," defensive back LaRico Stevenson said. "This go around, we know what we got at stake, and we're going to go out there and play and give it our all."

The Soul did have a chance late in the fourth quarter in the last game against the Power.

The Soul trialed by five with 31 seconds remaining and got the ball to the Pittsburgh 19-yard line, but Raudabaugh threw an interception with 12 seconds remaining, which sealed the deal. Raudabaugh finished the game going 23 for 41 for 288 yards, four touchdowns and that one interception.

"You got to have a short-term memory in football and at quarterback especially," Raudabaugh said when recalling them game. "The most important play is the next play. We're disappointed that it happened, but we can't go back and change the results."

Soul wide receiver Tiger Jones didn't take the revenge bait when recalling the loss. Jones finished the game with eight receptions for 124 yards and a touchdown. One could say his performance was all for naught.

He didn't look at it that way, but Jones instead took the one-game-at-a-time stance.

"We obviously don't want to get swept by them," he said. "I don't think it's a revenge thing, it's just taking it one game at a time regardless of who we have to play. We have to take care of what we do, and I think we'll be alright."

Said Soul head coach Clint Dolezel: "It's somebody in our way. Doesn't matter if we beat them, lost, whatever, we got to go win. We've got to get on a roll. We're over the halfway point. We have to start getting to where we're really starting to play good football in all three phases."

This week might be the perfect time.

The 3-8 Power have lost their last two games and are 2-4 in their last six games. Pittsburgh is last in the AFL in scoring, averaging 40.6 points, but the Power do make it hard on opponents who like to throw the ball, boasting the league's top pass defense. The Power are allowing opponents an average of just 222.7 passing yards. The thing is, they are last in the league in rushing defense (29.5 yards), so a good dose of fullback Derrick Ross may be in store.

Even with all those stats, Dolezel still wants his team to be prepared. The Soul may be better on paper, but taking Pittsburgh lightly -- again -- is not the game plan.

What is in the game plan is for the Soul to play like they're facing one of the best teams in the league, not one of the worst. Play with some sizzle. Play like they are the best in the division, which is where they currently stand.

"We have to play like we're playing Arizona," Dolezel said. "We got to show up and think that they're going to come out here and play their best football."

But it's not a revenge game. Or is it?

Raudabaugh used the "revenge" label at first, but when asked again, he changed his viewpoint.

"It's not revenge or payback, but I feel like we owe them something," Raudabaugh said. "They came in and matched our intensity and beat us at home. But we're going to treat it like any other game because we want to win them all.

"We just have to execute for four quarters, starting from the first drive to the last," he added. "We got to be better on our first drive of the game, make sure we go down there and get a touchdown. ... We just have to make plays when opportunities come up."

They'll be plenty of plays. Whether the Soul can capitalize on them from start to finish this go round, well, time will tell.

Soul topple Storm to win 2nd straight ArenaBowl

Soul topple Storm to win 2nd straight ArenaBowl

The Soul are the best team in the Arena Football League, again. They just had to deal with some first-half nerves, some sloppiness, and the small matter of a torn ACL to prove it.
 
In front of 13,648 rowdy fans at Wells Fargo Center, the Soul hoisted the Foster Trophy, with a 44-40 win over the Tampa Bay Storm. That outcome didn’t look very likely midway through the second quarter.
 
Dan Raudabaugh, the team’s star quarterback, only completed two of his first ten passes. He fired a pick-six straight to Storm linebacker Alvin Jackson, putting the Soul behind, 20-7. Oh, and he sustained a serious knee injury, which majority owner Ron Jaworski said post-game was a torn ACL.
 
Backup quarterback Luke Collis came in for a play, but Raudabaugh was determined to stay on the field.
 
“That’s my job,” Raudabaugh said. “I’ve missed very little play in my whole career, and I take a lot of pride in preparing like a champion and being reliable and accountable each week. I knew that we weren’t playing well, but we never lost hope or anything.”
 
Raudabaugh may have stayed positive, but after dropping what should have been an easy touchdown and the Soul’s second score of the game in the first quarter, wide receiver Darius Reynolds admitted that he wasn’t feeling too great about himself or the team’s prospects.
 
“A little doubt crept in, to be honest, but our fans stayed live and kept us motivated … I did get kind of down on myself, but I had a lot of inspiration from my teammates. I can make the worst play, I can fumble or anything, and they’ll still lift me up. Our team is very strong. We believe in each other and we let everyone know, no matter what happens, even if you mess up, we still have your back.”
 
After Jackson’s interception return, the Soul narrowly avoided another turnover when wide receiver Shaun Kauleinamoku, who finished with a team-high eight catches for 81 yards and one touchdown, fumbled after a third-down catch as he searched for extra yards. Fortunately, Reynolds recovered the fumble, and the Soul held on to possession. Fullback Mykel Benson finished the nine-play, 44-yard drive by punching in a one-yard touchdown, and the Soul entered halftime trailing by a 20-14 margin.
 
“As bad as it was, we were still down a possession and getting the ball to start the second half, so we never really thought the game was out of control,” Raudabaugh said. “Especially with the defense we have, we’re never out of it.”
 
The Soul’s offense began to jell in the third quarter. On the team’s first drive of the second half, Reynolds sprinted past the Storm secondary on third down, hauling in a 40-yard touchdown pass.
 
Though Tampa Bay answered with a score, the 6-1, 265 lb. Benson plowed in for another one-yard touchdown, and the Soul led 28-27 heading into the fourth quarter.
 
Cornerback James Romain, who picked off Tampa Bay quarterback and league MVP Randy Hippeard in the first quarter, sealed a decisive defensive stop early in the fourth quarter. On fourth down and 13, Romain tackled Storm receiver Joe Hills a yard short of the first-down marker.
 
The offense cashed in on the stop, thanks to another crucial fourth down conversion. Coach Clint Dolezel, having just called three rushes for Benson near the goal line, made a bold call. Instead of giving it again to Benson, Raudabaugh faked the hand off, rolled out, and fired the ball to rookie receiver Darius Prince in the back of the end zone.
 
“They all key on me when we’re down near the goal-line, so I understand if we go to someone else,” Benson said. “I’m not a selfish guy, I want to win and it doesn’t matter who scores, as long as we get that W.”
 
Prince was named MVP for his performance, which included five catches and two touchdowns. He was pleasantly surprised.
 
“I didn’t believe it at first,” he said. “It was really a team effort tonight. We started out slow, but we came on in the second half and picked it up.”
 
A sack in the end zone by defensive lineman and Temple alumnus Sean Daniels expanded the Soul lead. Daniels brought down Hippeard in the end zone for a safety to give the Soul a 37-27 edge and importantly, a two-possession lead.
 
Hippeard managed his third and fourth touchdown passes of the night in the fourth quarter, though Tampa Bay was in desperation mode following the safety. An interception of a Hippeard Hail Mary by cornerback Dwayne Hollis with 2:40 left effectively sealed the championship.
 
Even with his injured leg, Raudabaugh talked with the media after the game, and he was effusive in his praise for everyone, besides himself of course.
 
“It was a great turnout tonight. Great job by the city and the organization hosting it. The crowd was live as ever,” Raudabaugh said.
 
“I think our team really showed a bunch of grit tonight, and I’m proud of them. It was a full team effort.”

Soul take home awards, hope to cap dominant season with ArenaBowl XXX title

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CSN

Soul take home awards, hope to cap dominant season with ArenaBowl XXX title

Based on every metric imaginable, the Soul have been the best team in the Arena Football League this season. They lead the league in scoring, have allowed the fewest points and are undefeated at home. They’ll try to put the finishing touches on a nearly-perfect season Saturday night (7 p.m./6ABC) at the Wells Fargo Center, where they’ll host the Tampa Bay Storm in the ArenaBowl XXX.

Before the showdown, the AFL held its annual awards ceremony Friday afternoon to recognize the best players and coaches in the league. Unsurprisingly, nine of the 18 selections to the 2017 All-Arena First Team were members of the Soul.

One of those players, linebacker Beau Bell, also won the Commissioner’s Award and the Defensive Player of the Year Award. Bell led the league with 13 sacks, despite missing two games.

AFL commissioner Scott Butera presented Bell with the Commissioner’s Award, which honors the player deemed the best representative of the league, both on and off the field.

“I didn’t expect to win this award so I don’t have a second speech planned, but this is a big honor,” Bell said. “It takes a lot of sacrifices to be an arena football player, but I hope I can show people it’s possible to do what you love.”

Bell thanked the commissioner, his teammates, head coach Clint Dolezel, and the front office, including majority owner and Eagles legend Ron Jaworski. Tampa Bay president Derrick Brooks, the former Buccaneers linebacker and Pro Football Hall of Famer, was in attendance as well.

Tampa Bay also won its fair share of awards. Storm coach Ron James was named Coach of the Year, while Tampa Bay quarterback Randy Hippeard won Offensive Player of the Year and MVP honors, edging out Dan Raudabaugh, the Soul QB. Though Raudabaugh’s 82 touchdown passes led the league, Hippeard posted impressive regular-season numbers, with 3,506 yards passing, 80 touchdown passes and just eight interceptions.

James, who guided the Storm to a 10-4 regular season after the franchise went 2-14 last year, had ample praise for Soul coach and AFL Hall of Famer Dolezel, who he coached on the Las Vegas Gladiators in 2005.

“You know on tape when you’re watching a Clint Dolezel team,” James said, “because they always play hard, and they play the right way.”

While Dolezel missed out on his third consecutive Coach of the Year honor, his assistant head coach, Phil Bogle, won Assistant Coach of the Year.

Bogle, Dolezel and the Soul will hope to beat Tampa Bay on Saturday for the fourth time this season. Raudabaugh doesn’t expect it to be easy.

“We know Tampa is going to bring their A-game,” he said. “I’m very excited to play in front of the home crowd; we know it will be really loud in here. Still, we know Tampa is a good team and is going to play their best.”

Raudabaugh, in his sixth season with the Soul, will be making his fourth ArenaBowl appearance, and looking to win back-to-back titles after last year’s 56-42 triumph over the Arizona Rattlers.

“After losing a couple ArenaBowls early in my career (to Arizona in 2012 and 2013), I feel a lot more confident now in crunch moments and big games,” Raudabaugh said. “I’m thankful the organization has continued to have faith in me.”

However, the Soul quarterback said he doesn’t derive much extra confidence from the team’s 3-0 record thus far against Tampa Bay, or from the Soul's 13-1 regular season.

“I’m sure both teams will make some adjustments, but really arena football is a pretty simple game,” Raudabaugh said. “It’s all about who executes best that night.”