The two-time defending Arena Football League champion Soul know the challenge they face to keep alive their hopes for a three-peat. They must win Friday’s Game 2 of their playoff series with the Baltimore Brigade by 13 points or more to advance, given the point-differential tiebreaker.
They also know it could have been worse after losing Game 1, 57-45, before 8,164 on Sunday night at the Wells Fargo Center.
The Brigade took advantage of Soul mistakes to take a 27-0 lead in the first half, and the deficit grew to 30 points with five minutes, 45 seconds left in the game. Knowing that would have left them needing to win by 31 on Friday in Baltimore, the Soul mounted a comeback.
“The first half our offense was just awful,” Soul coach Clint Dolezel said. “We were not on the same page, we missed a catch, missed some throws missed some reads, we dropped some balls. That’s a combination to be down 30.”
The third-seeded Soul found themselves in an early hole to the second-seeded Brigade due to a series of penalties and miscommunications between quarterback Dan Raudabaugh and his receivers. The Soul finally scored when receiver Darius Prince punched it in on third-and-13 with 5 seconds left in the first half.
“You know what, they played their butt off,” Dolezel said of the Brigade’s first-half performance. “They outplayed us hands down.”
A couple of touchdowns early in the second half brought the Soul back to within 34-19. Shaun Kauleinamoku scored on a 14-yard pass and a few plays later, Soul defensive back Torrez Jones intercepted a Randy Hippeard pass that deflected off the wall for a pick-six.
“Just play recognition,” Jones said of the play. “Just watching film in certain situations.”
In a best-of-two series, the Soul knows the challenge it faces in order to move on to Arena Bowl XXXI.
“It’s tough,” Dolezel said of knowing they must win by 13 or more. On the bright side, he said the Brigade doesn’t have much of a home-field advantage. “It’s just the opposite of a home-field advantage where it’s a loud and a rowdy crowd. There’s really nobody in the stands in Baltimore, so it’s almost like practices sometimes. We know that can’t be a factor. We’ve got to come out with some energy. …
“We’ve got to get out and put some pressure on them. Let them get a little nervous if we can jump out and start fast.”
In the other bracket, top-seeded Albany Empire beat the No. 4 Washington Valor, 57-56, in overtime Saturday. The winner of their series will play the winner of Soul/Brigade series for the league title.