Soul stay hot with 30-point thrashing of Blaze

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Soul stay hot with 30-point thrashing of Blaze

Even the Utah Blaze, sporting burnt-orange pants that resemble their name, were no match for the red-hot Soul.

The Soul, sparked by five passing touchdowns from quarterback Dan Raudabaugh and a combined seven touchdowns from Andrae Thurman and Derrick Ross, notched their sixth straight victory with a 69-39 route of Utah.

The Soul picked up right where they left off from last Saturday’s blowout win over Chicago. They marched down the field with ease on their first possession, with Thurman eventually crossing the goal line and drawing first blood for the Soul.

“[Thurman] is one of those unsung heroes,” head coach Clint Dolezel said. “He’s a return guy, he’s blocking everybody, he tackles on kickoffs, he’s a great returner, as far as blocking as well. There’s a reason I brought him in here, because I’ve played with him before. He’s one of the guys that is making the nucleus of our team.”

If Thurman was the dynamic, speedy and athletic member of the Soul's offense, Ross was surely the hard-nosed bruiser. Following a Blaze turnover resulting from a dropped pass on fourth down, Ross barreled through Utah defenders for the 14-0 advantage in the first quarter.

Although Utah initially struggled to get anything going offensively, the Blaze picked things up when starting quarterback Jason Boltus was knocked out of the game with an injury. However, as Dolezel would point out, the Soul coach may have felt more comfortable with Boltus in the game rather than backup Tommy Grady. Grady shattered AFL records last year, tossing 142 touchdowns and totaling 5,870 passing yards.

“Grady is a great football player,” Dolezel said. “He broke every record in the world last year, so we knew it wasn’t going to be easy because he’s a good football player. I wasn’t overly thrilled when [Boltus] got hurt. We know what [Grady] can do.”

When Grady and the Blaze responded with their first touchdown of the game -- albeit with a botched extra point -- the Soul wasted no time in getting back on the board. Thurman recorded his second score of the game with an eight-yard touchdown catch delivered from Raudabaugh.

After Utah scored again, it was Ross’ turn to tally his second touchdown of the game, putting the Soul ahead 28-13 late in the first half. Raudabaugh tacked on another touchdown pass in the waning seconds of the second quarter, and the Soul led 35-13 at the break.

The Soul would not let up following intermission. Another four-and-out by the Blaze in the opening possession of the second half led to Raudabaugh’s third touchdown pass of the game, giving the Soul a commanding 42-13 lead.

Thurman and Ross would later tack on their fourth and third touchdowns, respectively, while Raudabaugh threw for his fifth touchdown pass as the Soul once again won in blowout fashion.
    
With their sixth straight win and just two games remaining, the Soul improved to 11-5 and now have a half-game lead over the Jacksonville Sharks atop the American Conference. Their final two regular-season games will come on the road against San Jose on July 20 and San Antonio on July 27. The Soul will then host their first-round playoff game on Saturday, Aug. 3 at 7 p.m. at the Wells Fargo Center.

Before they get to that point, however, Dolezel would like to see his team finish out the regular season strong.

“It’s tough going on the coast,” Dolezel said. “It’s always been a struggle to go there. We have to play good football. We have to keep pace with Jacksonville."

Best of NBA: Russell Westbrook posts 5th straight triple-double in Thunder's win over Pelicans

Best of NBA: Russell Westbrook posts 5th straight triple-double in Thunder's win over Pelicans

OKLAHOMA CITY -- Russell Westbrook became the first player with five consecutive triple-doubles since Michael Jordan had seven straight in 1989 and the Oklahoma City Thunder beat the New Orleans Pelicans 101-92 on Sunday night.

Westbrook finished with 28 points, 17 rebounds and 12 assists. The Thunder have won all five games during Westbrook's triple-double stretch. It was Westbrook's 10th triple-double of the season and the 47th of his career.

Enes Kanter had 17 points and 10 rebounds and Victor Oladipo added 15 points for the Thunder.

Anthony Davis, the NBA's leading scorer, had 37 points and 15 rebounds for the Pelicans. Buddy Hield, who led nearby Oklahoma to the Final Four last season, scored 16 points in his first game back in the state (see full recap).

Rose, Anthony help Knicks hold off Kings
NEW YORK -- Derrick Rose and Carmelo Anthony each scored 20 points and the New York Knicks held off the Sacramento Kings 106-98 on Sunday night for their eighth win in 11 games.

The Knicks took a 21-point lead in the first half, gave up 18 consecutive points in the third quarter but outplayed the Kings down the stretch to win their third straight overall and improve to 9-3 at home.

Brandon Jennings added 19 points for New York and Kristaps Porzingis finished with 15 points and 14 rebounds.

DeMarcus Cousins had 36 points and 12 rebounds for the Kings, but shot just 9 for 30 and looked fatigued while struggling late while playing the entire second half (see full recap).

Ibaka's big night leads Magic past Pistons
AUBURN HILLS, Mich. -- Serge Ibaka scored 21 points and blocked four shots, helping the Orlando Magic beat the Detroit Pistons 98-92 on Sunday night.

Nikola Vucevic added 16 points and eight rebounds for the Magic.

Pistons guard Reggie Jackson made his season debut after missing Detroit's first 21 games with knee tendinitis. He had 18 points in 23 minutes. Marcus Morris led Detroit with 21 points.

Orlando won for the third time in four games while Detroit had its three-game winning streak snapped.

On Jackson's first possession, the Pistons went to their bread-and-butter play -- he and Andre Drummond running a high pick and roll. Jackson came off the screen and hit a 3-pointer, bringing a cheer from the small crowd. Jackson played the first 5:50 of the quarter as Detroit built a 16-10 lead (see full recap).

Soul celebrate Arenabowl championship in City Hall rally

Soul celebrate Arenabowl championship in City Hall rally

The 2016 World Champions banner ran across the stage, as the Soul received a hero’s welcome at City Hall on Wednesday. 

The Soul won their second ArenaBowl in franchise history on Friday, holding off a late rally by the Arizona Rattlers in a 56-42 win. Over 100 fans and onlookers cheered the organization on during a rally in the City Hall plaza despite strong humidity. Mayor Jim Kenney came to the stage amidst a cascade of light blue and white confetti and proclaimed the day “Philadelphia Soul Championship Day.”

“We are as a city extremely proud of this team that they were able to accomplish what they were able to accomplish this season,” Kenney said. “You guys really made us proud and provided us with much-needed bragging rights.”

Kenney singled out owner Ron Jaworski, the former Eagles quarterback who was instrumental in bringing Arena Football to Philadelphia along with Jon Bon Jovi and Craig Spencer in 2004. 

“One of the first messages I got after the game was congratulations from Jon Bon Jovi,” Jaworski said. “He still lives with his Soul.

“Craig, Jon and I said we’re going to do one thing, folks. We’re going to do one thing. We’re going to do one thing win … a total commitment to success and winning.”

Easily the most recognized figure on the stage, Jaworski began listing the Soul’s accomplishments to the crowd. 

“We are the winningest team in Philadelphia,” Jaworski loudly exclaimed. “We’ve brought two world championships to this city. I think that’s pretty darn good!” 

The players were introduced to start the rally, but noticeably missing was defensive lineman Jake Metz. The Shippensburg University product earned a tryout with the Eagles after the Soul’s championship and was signed in time to play in Thursday’s preseason finale against the Jets (see story). Metz made an appearance toward the end. He was brought on stage by coach Clint Dolezel, leading the Philly crowd to cheer the newest Eagle. 

Dolezel, a Texas native, said he has a soft spot for Philadelphia after his four years at the helm. 

“All you Soul fans, I know I’m from Dallas," Dolezel said to playful boos. "I understand, but there’s a little piece in here that’s got a little Philly in me now."

The Soul’s rally certainly brought out some characters. One man wore a blue full-body suit with Soul-colored facepaint and a blue wig. Others danced around wildly in championship bliss, soaking the momentous occasion for Philadelphia’s winningest franchise.

Many in the crowd were season ticket holders who made the time to welcome back their championship team. That included Mark and Cheryl Vitullo, who came from South Jersey for the parade, bringing their children with them. 

“We’re just so proud of them all,” Mark Vitullo said. “The coach did a great job. The owners too, it was just really nice. What I like about the game is they do a lot for the kids too.”

“The boys know the players,” Cheryl Vitullo said. “[The Soul players] know them. They come to see them before each game. They talk to one another. They high-five. The boys have given them four-leaf clovers for good luck, the whole thing. They have been with them the whole time."

The fans weren’t the only ones enjoying the moment. The Soul players were all smiles, signing autographs and taking in the moment. While it may not be a Super Bowl, the championship meant a lot to the players, especially offensive lineman and Temple alum Wayne Tribue.

“It’s great,” Tribue said. “This is my first real championship that I’ve ever won. I couldn’t have done it with a better group of guys, better coaches. I’m just thankful for it.”