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."

Soul assigns former Villanova star Poppy Livers to roster

Soul assigns former Villanova star Poppy Livers to roster

The Soul have assigned former Villanova wide receiver Poppy Livers to their roster. Livers was selected after attending an open tryout last month.

“We had over 200 guys at our open tryout and Poppy definitely stood out,” Soul head coach Clint Dolezel said. “We are excited to get Poppy into training camp and hopefully have him confirm our thoughts that his skill set can lead to a phenomenal career in the Arena Football League.” 

In his final season at Villanova, Livers had 67 receptions for 987 yards and nine touchdowns. He showed his versatility by rushing seven times for 67 yards and taking 17 punt returns for 129 yards and a touchdown. 

The 5-foot-7 wideout was named Second-Team All-CAA and team captain his final year with the Wildcats. He expressed his gratitude to the Soul for the opportunity they have given him. 

“I couldn’t be more excited to get an opportunity to continue my football career at the next level, all while staying in the Philadelphia area, the city that has been so great to me,” Livers said. “I am looking forward to getting into training camp and proving that my best football days are still ahead of me.”

Livers will join rookie offensive lineman John Kling and defensive lineman John Sheehy as the few who were selected from the open tryout to compete for a roster spot. 

James Romain, Dwayne Hollis will return to Soul roster for 2017 season

James Romain, Dwayne Hollis will return to Soul roster for 2017 season

Two defensive backs that helped the Soul win the 2016 ArenaBowl Championship will be returning to the team.

James Romain and Dwayne Hollis will both be back in 2017.

“James and Dwayne are two of the best defensive backs in the Arena Football League,” Soul head coach Clint Dolezel said in a statement. “Having them back gives us the talent and experience to continue to be one of the best defenses in the Arena Football League.”

The Soul led the AFL in interceptions last year with 25. Hollis had eight interceptions, while Romain had five.

Hollis has recorded 101 total tackles, 13 pass break-ups and nine interceptions for 156-yards and three touchdowns in his first two seasons with the Soul. He was also named Second-Team All-Arena DB last season. Romain was named a First-Team All-Arena DB in 2015.

The Soul will open up the 2017 season on the road against the Tampa Bay Storm at the Amaile Arena on April 15.