It's been a tough season for the Soul in its first year back in the Arena Football League since winning a championship in 2008, and last night, it got even tougher.
The Soul (2-6) fell victim to the league-leading Jacksonville Sharks, 58-42, at the Wells Fargo Center. A frustrated crowd of 8,429 watched as veteran Sharks quarterback Aaron Garcia put on clinic, completing 21 of 31 passes for 271 yards and five touchdowns.
"You can't give one of the greatest quarterbacks to ever play the game extra possessions," Soul coach Mike Hohensee said of Garcia, who is playing in his 17th AFL season. "We didn't play very good offensively. We didn't protect well, and we didn't make good decisions with the football."
Most of the game was marred by mental errors for the Soul as the team muffed two kickoffs and committed 13 penalties. The Soul also turned the ball over six times and failed to convert on any third downs. Despite the mishaps, the Soul managed to hang on until late.
Sharks fullback Kirby Griffin finally put the game out of reach with 55 seconds remaining as he pushed his way to a 2-yard touchdown. Along with his quarterback, wide receiver Jomo Wilson was dominant for Jacksonville, pulling in a game-high 11 receptions for 148 yards and three touchdowns.
The Sharks (7-1) jumped out to an early 27-14 lead over Philadelphia, but Soul wideout Donovan Morgan pulled in a 7-yard touchdown pass from starting quarterback Ryan Vena with only 18.7 seconds left in the first half. Jacksonville kicker Marco Capozzoli quickly fired back with a 25-yard field goal as time expired to take a 30-21 lead into halftime.
"I had a little injury around then, and my shoulder was kind of stiff," said Morgan, who totaled a team-high 134 yards and two touchdowns. "I just kept fighting through it and stayed amped up the whole game."
Although the Soul had gained some momentum heading into halftime, Hohensee decided to make a quarterback switch, replacing Vena with Justin Allgood, who led the league in touchdown passes last season for Tulsa.
"We were just trying to get a little bit of a spark," Hohensee said. "I thought he came in and did a decent job, but the kid hasn't played in a while and needs to fix some things."
Allgood quickly threw an interception to Sharks defensive back Terrance Smith, who returned his second pick of the game for a 41-yard touchdown to give Jacksonville a 37-21 lead late in the third quarter.
"It's one of those deals where you wait for your opportunity as a quarterback, and I was fortunate to get mine tonight," Allgood said. "I have got to clean up the mistakes. It's the same story, different day. But if we clean up the mistakes, we're a good football team."
Allgood remained under center for the rest the game, completing eight of 15 passes for 127 yards and two scores.
"Allgood came in with a lot of energy and tried to make plays to get us back in the game," Morgan said. "We have to get better individually, so we can get better as a team. I have a great deal of belief in these guys. I know they're going to bust their butts to get where they need to be, and I'm going to do the same."