There may not be a worse way to lose in football then on a Hail Mary.
The Philadelphia Soul fell victim to this play at the hands of the Cleveland Gladiators with no time remaining, and lost their third game in a row, 69-68 at the Wells Fargo Center.
The Soul held a 68-63 lead with two seconds remaining after a three-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Dan Raudabaugh to wide receiver Markee White.
On the ensuing possession, Gladiators quarterback Shane Austin tossed up a prayer into the end zone. Two Soul defensive backs attempted to knock down the pass, but instead batted it into the hands of Cleveland wide receiver Dominick Goodman for the game-winning score.
"It’s not just this game, we’ve been doing it all year long," said Soul head coach Clint Dolezel. "We’ve lost games like that all year. The frustration is overwhelming right now."
The win for the Gladiators marked a season sweep over the Soul, both wins coming on the final play of regulation. Cleveland defeated Philadelphia back in Week 11 by overcoming a 17-point deficit with 52 seconds remaining. More importantly, it improved them to 12-1 and clinched their first playoff berth since 2011.
The loss dropped the Soul to 6-8 and leaves them as a longshot to the make the playoffs with just four games remaining.
"We feel a little snake-bitten, but that’s how it is sometimes," said Dolezel.
The fourth-quarter comeback was sparked by a successful onside kick recovery by Cleveland. With 54 seconds left and trailing by five points, the Gladiators took over on downs after V’Keon Lacey failed to hold onto the bouncing ball. A few plays later, quarterback Austin connected with Thyron Lewis on a 28-yard pass that gave the visitors the lead. It was the duo’s fourth touchdown of the night.
Austin had a career day by completing 26 of his 40 pass attempts for 409 yards and career-high 11 touchdowns. Raudabaugh completed 19 of 27 passes for 250 yards and five touchdowns.
"From the looks of it, they’re one play better than us," said Raudabaugh. "I’m not taking any credit away from them. That’s just tough right there."
Despite being on the losing side, fullback Derrick Ross, who recently broke the league-record for all-time touchdowns, was the Soul’s player as he found the end zone three times. He now has 28 touchdowns on the season.
The Soul will look to get back to their winning ways on June 28 at the Iowa Barnstormers, who they beat in Week 7, 60-55. They will need to win out to have any shot at making the playoffs.