Game Preview: Soul Set Sights on Homefield AdvantageMay 31, 2012 - Arena Football League (AFL) Philadelphia Soul
The Soul remain in the race for the top spot in the Arena Football League thanks to last week's victory over the Cleveland Gladiators. Philadelphia holds sole possession of first place in both the American Conference and the Eastern Division. Philadelphia is 5-0 against Southern Division teams as they host the Orlando Predators in the teams' second meeting this season.
After compiling a four-game winning streak early in the season, the Soul have found themselves bouncing back and forth the past few games, winning their latest game against the Gladiators, 55-33. The Soul are now locked in a four-way tie for first in the AFL with the Arizona Rattlers, San Antonio Talons, and San Jose SaberCats at 8-3 heading into Week 13 of the 2012 season. Philadelphia is the only team in the American Conference with a claim to the best record in the League. The Soul currently enjoy a two-game lead over their division and conference.
Philadelphia's victory in Cleveland last week concluded the series with neither team winning at home. Week 13 sees the conclusion of another season series, this time against the Orlando Predators. The teams met in Week 8 with Philadelphia stealing one on the road, 69-53.
Philadelphia heads into the matchup looking to improve upon their division lead rather than preserving it as they did last week. However, that doesn't mean that the pressure is off for the Soul. A loss would mean falling a game behind in the race for the best record in the League and Cleveland could quickly close the gap for the Eastern Division title again.
Despite Orlando's struggles all season, former Florida Gators quarterback Chris Leak has performed well since taking over at quarterback for the Predators a few weeks. Leak has completed 51-of-91 passes for 710 yards and 15 touchdowns in four games with Orlando. His 102.56 quarterback rating leads the team as does his 177.5 yards per game average. While Philadelphia knows they cannot underestimate Orlando and their new signal caller, they will rely on their own to get the job done.
Soul quarterback Dan Raudabaugh has been a leader by example all season, but in recent weeks has struggled, throwing eight of his 13 interceptions over the course of the past three games. On the season, Raudabaugh has completed 66.3 percent of his passes, connecting on 234-of-353 for 3,044 yards and 72 touchdowns and a quarterback rating of 117.49.
Last year's team leader in receiving, WR Donovan Morgan, returned to action last week against the division rival Cleveland Gladiators. Morgan led the team in his return with nine receptions and 84 yards while hauling in two touchdowns, bringing his season totals to 32 receptions for 297 yards and 10 touchdowns over the course of four games.
"It felt good to be back and on the field. Coming out here and scoring twice and leading the offense in receiving was a good way to come back," said Soul wide receiver Donovan Morgan. "It hurt not being able to get on the field and help the team for a few weeks, but I'm all better now and can't wait to keep things going next week against Orlando."
In Morgan's absence, WR Tiger Jones took control of the Soul receiving corps. Jones compiled 92 receptions for 1,371 yards and 33 touchdowns through eleven games in 2012. With those numbers, Tiger is projected to surpass Soul single-season records for receptions, receiving yards, and receiving touchdowns by season's end.
Jones, the 2011 Cutter's Receiver of the Year, not only took the lead in Philadelphia, but also joined the top ranks of receivers in the Arena Football League. Jones currently sits at No. 3 for reception yards (1,218) and reception yards per game (124.6). He ranks No. 4 in scoring (198), scoring touchdowns (33), yards per catch (14.9), and receptions (92). No. 5 for receptions per game (8.36)
The unsung hero in the success of the Soul's dominant offense has been Philadelphia's offensive line. The Soul, led by Christian Johnson, Brennen Carvalho and Zipp Duncan, have only allowed their field general to be brought down behind the line of scrimmage three times through the first half of the 2012 season (No. 1 in the AFL). Duncan has added 11 receptions for 77 yards and a touchdown as well.
Last week, Philadelphia's record-setting fullback Derrick Ross was set loose. Ross carried the ball 21 times for 66 yards and two touchdowns. His 21 carries set the League mark for single-game record of 19, set by Nashville's Dan Alexander on April 21, 2007. Ross has 93 carries for 341 yards and 18 touchdowns on the ground with seven receptions for 131 yards and three touchdowns in the air.
"It was just the way things worked out as the game went along. It felt good to get that many carries, but I wasn't thinking in my head of how many I needed for a record or anything," said Soul fullback Derrick Ross. "It just happened to work out that way for us on offense, but we owe it to our defense for taking the ball away from Cleveland."
Philadelphia's defense has been a force lately, causing five fumbles and recovering three against Cleveland last week. The unit ranks No. 3 in the league with 19 interceptions, No. 4 with a +8 turnover margin, and No. 5 with 19 sacks.
Soul defensive lineman Bryan Robinson ranks No. 2 in the AFL in sacks (8.0), tackles for loss (11.0), and forced fumbles with five. Robinson is joined among the League leaders by teammates Joe Goosby, Kent Richardson, and Rayshaun Kizer.
Linebacker Joe Goosby ranks No. 1 in the League with three interceptions returned for touchdowns. Defensive back Kent Richardson is tied for No. 2 in the AFL with eight interceptions on the season returned for 93 yards and a touchdown. Fellow DB Rayshaun Kizer ranks No. 1 in passes defended with a total of 23 and No. 7 in interception return yards with 91.
With seven games left on the schedule each week means more to the team's postseason aspirations. Orlando won't be taken lightly despite the fact that the Predators have not won a game since Week 7 after losing to Philadelphia in Week 8.
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