A season that began with much promise has taken a downward turn for the Soul. After winning their first four Arena Football League games, the Soul have lost two in a row.
They also have lost starting quarterback Tony Graziani with a sprained left shoulder. An AFL player on the injured reserve list must sit out at least four weeks, and Graziani is expected to be out four to six.
The Soul quarterback was placed on injured reserve after suffering the injury in the second quarter of last Monday's 51-41 loss at Dallas.
Juston Wood replaced him and started fast, but he faded down the stretch and threw three crucial interceptions in the fourth quarter.
"I have to learn from my mistakes," said Wood, who also threw five touchdown passes.
Will he get the chance?
The Soul signed quarterback Clint Stoerner on Friday, and he could start tonight's game at Columbus against the Destroyers. Even if Stoerner doesn't start, Wood will have a short leash.
Coach Bret Munsey said he would make his decision based on how Wood and Stoerner performed in practice.
Stoerner is a three-year AFL veteran who started last year for Nashville, throwing 54 touchdown passes. He started the Kats' first two games this season, including an opening 63-30 loss to the Soul, but he was released last month.
The Soul also are hurting at wide receiver, with their top two wideouts - Charles Pauley and Larry Brackins - questionable with hamstring injuries.
Defensive back Mike Brown, who missed last week's game with a hamstring injury, is far from 100 percent and is questionable.
Starting defensive back Johnnie Harris, a former Oakland Raider, was released last week.
And to top things off, the schedule has been unforgiving. The Soul are in the middle of their toughest four-game stretch, which began with a home loss to Georgia on April 9 before last week's defeat in Dallas.
After tonight's game against a Columbus team that is more dangerous than its 3-3 record indicates, the Soul will travel to Chicago next Monday to face the defending AFL champion Rush.
"Beginning with the Georgia game, we had to play against four of the best teams in the league, with three on the road," Munsey said. "It's a really tough stretch, but there are no excuses. We have to find a way to win."
After visiting Chicago, the Soul will play six of their final eight games at home. Even if they lose the next two, the playoffs will be within reach. But the cushion they created by winning their first four games could be wiped out.
With Graziani hurt, the receivers hobbling, and the secondary uncertain other than all-AFL selection Eddie Moten, Munsey's main task is keeping the team from falling apart.
"We have to go to Columbus and play well," he said.
Easier said than done.
"Nobody is feeling sorry for us - that's for sure," Munsey said. "This is not an easy situation, but that is why we get paid to coach, and we need to step up."
When: Tonight at 7:30
Where: Nationwide Arena (17,171 capacity), Columbus, Ohio.
TV/radio: ESPN2; WPEN-AM (950).
Records: Soul, 4-2. Columbus, 3-3.
Coaches: For the Soul, Bret Munsey, second year (13-9 regular season, 1-1 postseason). For the Destroyers, Doug Kay, second year (11-11 regular season, 0-0 postseason).
Last week: The Soul lost, 51-41, at Dallas last Monday. The Destroyers beat visiting Austin, 72-49, on April 14.
All-time series: Tied, 3-3.
Last meeting: April 21, 2006. The Destroyers won, 46-45, in Philadelphia.
Current series streak: The Destroyers have won three in a row.
Points per game: For the Soul, 59.7; for the Destroyers, 55.5.
Opponents' points per game: For the Soul, 47.5; for the Destroyers, 54.3.
Key injuries: For the Soul, QB Tony Graziani (shoulder) is out. WR Larry Brackins (hamstring), WR Charles Pauley (hamstring) and WR-DB Mike Brown (hamstring) are questionable. For the Destroyers, DB Brandon Hefflin (hip flexor) and WR Darcey Levy (hamstring strain) are questionable.
Key players: For the Soul, DB Eddie Moten leads the team in interceptions (5), tackles (34) and pass breakups (16). WR-LB Sean Scott has 30 receptions for 338 yards and seven TDs. He also has 9.5 tackles. RB-LB Idris Price has five rushing TDs and 14.5 tackles.
For the Destroyers, QB Matt Nagy, a Delaware alum, threw nine TD passes in last week's win. For the season, he has completed 134 of 220 passes for 1,388 yards and 33 TDs, with five interceptions. WR David Saunders has caught 39 passes for 336 yards and 10 touchdowns and has caught at least one TD pass in 17 consecutive games. DB Jerald Brown has five of the Destroyers' seven interceptions.
Fast fact: Columbus LB Leroy Thompson attended Williamstown High in Gloucester County and Delaware State.
- Marc Narducci