Soul Look for History to "3-Peat" Itself
PHILADELPHIA, PA - Already a key figure in cementing Philadelphia as the current "City of Champions" thanks to back-to-back ArenaBowl Championships in 2016 and 2017, the Soul enter the 2018 postseason boasting the longest active postseason appearance streak of all Philadelphia teams. 2018 marks the Soul's seventh consecutive season making a playoff appearance and the tenth overall in the franchise's 13-year history. The team's "Road to 3-peat" begins this Sunday at 6:00 p.m. inside the Wells Fargo Center as the Soul take on the Baltimore Brigade in Game 1 of the Round 1 Playoff Series, presented by Colonial Marble & Granite.
In 2016, the Soul entered the season with a clear purpose and mission: Redemption. The previous season saw the Soul lose a heart-breaker to the Jacksonville Sharks at home in the semi-finals, as QB Dan Raudabaugh's last second pass into the end zone fell incomplete. As fate would have it, the road to playoff redemption led the team back to a familiar situation. After eliminating the Tampa Bay Storm, the Soul once again took on the Sharks at home in the semi-finals. This time around, the veteran signal-caller Raudabaugh led his team to victory, tossing the winning touchdown with four seconds left to WR Darius Reynolds, who was in his first season with the Soul.
After exorcising that demon, the Soul traveled to Arizona to take on the "dynasty in the making" Arizona Rattlers in ArenaBowl XXIX, entering the game as two-touchdown underdogs. Despite what the pundits had predicted, the Soul led wire-to-wire thanks to standout performances from several current household names. Raudabaugh threw for 278 yards and six touchdowns on the night. Reynolds hauled in two of those while fellow receiver Shaun Kauleinamoku racked up 110 yards and three touchdowns en route to being named ArenaBowl XXIX MVP. Defensively, the Soul played their best game of the season. After forcing a fumble on the Rattlers' opening drive that was returned 49-yards for a touchdown by DB Dwayne Hollis, the defensive unit went on to force two interceptions, both by DB James Romain, as well as another forced fumble and sack by DL Jake Metz. The Soul had completed their mission and became AFL Champions.
2017's message was clear from the season's opening kickoff. The Soul set out to dominate in every phase of the game with much of the roster returning for a shot at back-to-back titles. After cruising through the regular season to a 13-1 record, the opening round of the playoffs saw the Soul welcome the Baltimore Brigade to Philadelphia, the same opponent they'll face this Sunday night. The game became a passing clinic put on by the Soul, as Raudabaugh threw nine touchdowns, six of which landed in the hands of Darius Reynolds. Another of his touchdowns was caught by a newcomer, WR Darius Prince, one of four catches he had in what was his debut for the Soul. The Soul won the game by two touchdowns, securing another trip to the ArenaBowl. This time, they got to stay home.
August 26, 2017 saw the Soul welcome the Tampa Bay Storm to the Wells Fargo Center for ArenaBowl XXX. The Storm were led by freshly-minted League MVP Randy Hippeard, the same quarterback they'll face this Sunday night, yet the Soul were a confident group. However, this title game got off to a much different start than the previous year. At halftime, the Soul faced a 20-7 deficit. Coming back to win would mean they would have to complete the largest comeback in ArenaBowl history.
As the record books now show, that's exactly what the Soul went on to do. Raudabaugh returned after an injury scare to throw three second-half touchdowns, one each to Reynolds, Prince and Kauleinamoku. The defense turned up the pressure on Hippeard, forcing two interceptions on the night, one by Romain and the game-clincher by Hollis with just over 2-minutes left to play. The Soul had won back-to-back titles.
Of course, the captain of the ship for this success, masterfully guiding and motivating these teams, has been Head Coach Clint Dolezel. A Hall of Fame player himself, he's now become only the sixth coach in league history to win multiple ArenaBowl titles, and has his sights set on the Soul becoming only the third team in AFL history to win three straight championships.
So as the Soul enter the 2018 postseason, will the veteran-heavy roster continue to repeat its history of success thanks to names like Raudabaugh, Reynolds, Hollis, Romain and Metz? Will the team once again benefit from the emergence of a surprise star a la Darius Prince in 2017? We'll have to wait and see what history has in store for the Soul this time around.
Kickoff on Sunday at the Wells Fargo Center is set for 6pm. Playoff packs and Family Four Packs for the game are on sale now at www.PhiladelphiaSoul.com. Single game tickets are also available at www.WellsFargoCenterPhilly.com.
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