Philadelphia Soul's playoff hopes remain alive with win
By Kyle Phillippi
It was a game of missed opportunities between the Philadelphia Soul and the Orlando Predators, , but in the end, the Soul capitalized when it mattered.
Looking to make a last-ditch effort at a postseason run, the Soul topped the Predators, 42-35, in front of 7,069 fans at the Wells Fargo Center. They improved to 8-8 with two games remaining, and claimed a a season sweep of Orlando.
"It was not pretty by any means, but sometimes you have to win them like that," head coach Clint Dolezel said. "We haven't won many close games, so it's good to get that going."
Despite failing on too many occasions to capitalize on would-be 14-point swings, the Soul's offense did just enough to outscore the Predators (8-7). If not for their defense, though, the game could have easily slipped out of their grasp.
"I've been around arena football for some time and I've never seen defense like that," said Dolezel. "The way they did it, the way they made stops, put pressure on the passer and made good plays, it was definitely a group effort."
The unit held Orlando in check all night, forcing numerous four-and-outs and multiple turnovers in what was arguably their best defensive performance of the season. The pass rush was strong throughout the game, picking up four sacks. Teddy Jennings delivered two of them, tying the team's single-season sack with 11his 11th of the campaign.
That pressure was key to forcing five four-and-outs and limiting Orlando to 3-of-10 on third down conversions. And it couldn't have come at a better time.
"You couldn't have asked for anything more from [the defense's] end except for maybe more points on our end," quarterback Dan Raudabaugh said. "Sometimes you need someone to pick you up, and the defense did a great job of answering the bell. They did a great job at the end and we took advantage there at the end and closed it out."
While the defense put together a memorable outing, the offense never found consistency. Raudabaugh looked shaky at times, overthrowing multiple receivers - including on a would-be touchdown late in the third quarter. The offense did not convert in many key situations, going 1-5 on third down and 1-3 on fourth down.
With the win, Philadelphia closed in on the final playoff spot in the American Conference, moving within a half-game of the Tampa Bay Storm (8-7).
"We hold our own destiny for the most part and opportunities are there for us to sneak into the playoffs," said Dolezel. "I promise you if we sneak in there, no one is going to want to play us."