The Philadelphia Soul just won’t go away.
The Soul did their best Jekyll and Hyde transformation in a do-or-die situation Sunday night at the Wells Fargo Center, topping the San Jose SaberCats, 42-20, to keep their playoffs hope alive entering the final week on the schedule.
In Week 2, the Soul were throttled, 70-33, by San Jose but looked like a new team since their matchup a little more than four months ago.
“That team scored 70 on us so we played well,” said head coach Clint Dolezel. “I don’t think they were on their A game but we weren’t on our A game when we played at their place.”
Coming into the game, San Jose boasted one of the league’s most prolific offenses, putting up 56.7 points and 262.4 yards per game en route to a 12-2 record. That was put to a halt, though, as Philadelphia’s defense had, arguably, their most complete game of the season in front of 10,471 fans. Between constant pressure, tight coverage and timely stops, the Soul held their opponent to their lowest first half scoring of the season with just 13 points and eventually their lowest point total all season.
In that opening half, Philadelphia forced a turnover on downs, one interception and one fumble off of a botched field goal attempt. It was an all-around dominant two quarters for the Soul’s defense.
“Anytime [the defense] can get those turnovers and we can get points off of it, we’ll be in good shape,” said quarterback Dan Raudabaugh.
Their stranglehold on the San Jose offense continued into the second half as they forced yet another interception on the SaberCats’ second and final possession of the third quarter. Following that stop, the Soul forced their second turnover on downs to open the final frame. Defensive back Rayshaun Kizer wound up picking off his second pass of the game in the final minutes.
Fullback Derrick Ross epitomized the Soul’s perseverance during these past few weeks and leading into Week 20 on his 32-yard touchdown reception in the final minutes of the first half. The leading-rusher in the Arena Football League caught a drop-off pass from Raudabaugh, juked out the proceeding would-be tackler and then bulldozed over one SaberCat before carrying three more defenders nearly five yards all the way for the score.
“He may have two plays on ESPN,” said Dolezel. “That was unbelievable. He was definitely our strong point on the offensive side tonight and he carried us through it.”
He gashed the Pacific Division champs’ defense all evening, tallying 109 total yards and finding the endzone four times -- three of which on the ground. He now has 39 touchdowns with one game to go.
“He’s a bowling ball,” said Raudabaugh. “He’s the boss for the reason. When he makes a play, he just doesn’t get us lifted, he gets the crowd into it and the other team skeptical about what they’re doing.”
The Soul are now one win and one Tampa Bay Storm loss away from clinching the last spot in the playoffs. They will travel a few hours away to face the Pittsburgh Power, a team that has beat them twice this season. Meanwhile, the Storm play Monday night against a streaking Spokane team before closing out the season against the 16-1 Cleveland Gladiators. With their win tonight, two losses by the Storm -- even if the Soul lose next week -- will be just enough to earn a postseason spot.
“We want to worry about things we can control,” said Raudabaugh. “We’ll have our eyes on it but our heart and soul on Pittsburgh.”