The Arena Football League did no favors to the Philadelphia Soul when scheduling their home opener six weeks into the season. An event long in the making, the Soul did not disappoint the 12,311 in attendance at the Wells Fargo Center with a 54-41 win over the Jacksonville Sharks.
The win pushes the Soul to 2-3 on the season. The loss dropped the Sharks to the same record as the Soul at 2-3.
Unlike a usual AFL game, the defense played a major role Saturday night. Coming in to the game, Philadelphia ranked dead last in scoring defense, allowing 62.8 points per game.
"We just played Soul football," said Soul defensive linemen Brian Robinson. "We did a good job of picking up where the offense was failing some times and that’s how football works. If our offense isn’t clicking, our defense has to step up. Today we did our job."
On Saturday, the defensive line, anchored by Robinson and Teddy Jennings, caused havoc for Jacksonville quarterback Aaron Garcia in all four quarters. The all-time league leader in passing yards, touchdowns and completions faced pressure nearly every drop back and found himself on his back more times than his 43-year-old body would have liked. Jennings and Robinson combined for four of the team’s five sacks on Garcia.
"He’s established and a Hall of Famer," Robinson said. "It just makes us more hungry to get after someone with a big name. We took advantage of it."
Defensive back James Romain had his first interception of the season and then followed that up on the next drive with a 33-yard fumble recovery for a touchdown. The team’s secondary had a good amount of success matching up with the Sharks’ receivers, deflecting multiple passes and playing tight man-to-man coverage all night.
"The defense played well, that’s what was going for us tonight," said Soul head coach Clint Dolezel. "[Jacksonville] got a few touchdowns that we didn’t’ like but they had to earn most of the touchdowns they got tonight."
On offense, the Soul were led by fullback Derrick Ross and wide receivers Tiger Jones and Ryan McDaneil.
Ross paved his way through the Sharks defense, scoring three touchdowns while picking up 57 yards on 10 carries. Jones caught three scores while McDaniel added two of his own.
"I was tired of getting boo’d all the time," Ross said. "I’m happy to be back in Philadelphia. This is where I belong."
Quarterback Dan Raudabaugh comepleted 15 of 25 for 197 yards and four touchdowns, including a 49-yard strike to McDaniel.
The Soul’s first home win came with the support of Eagles quarterback Nick Foles and tight end Zach Ertz, who served as honorary captains before the game’
The Soul will host the Iowa Barnstormers in a division matchup at 4 p.m on April 27.