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 retain WR Ryan McDaniel, add FB Mykel Benson

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Soul retain WR Ryan McDaniel, add FB Mykel Benson

The Philadelphia Soul will have a mix of new and old faces as they try to repeat as ArenaBowl champions in 2017.

Wide receiver Ryan McDaniel will return for his fifth year with the Soul while former Arizona Rattlers fullback Mykel Benson joins the roster for the 2017 season.

McDaniel played his college ball at Samford and then spent one year in the Professional Indoor Football League before coming to the Arena Football League (AFL) in 2013 and joining the Soul. The 28-year-old receiver has 345 receptions for 4,159 yards and 88 touchdowns over the course of his tenure in Philadelphia. He had 19 touchdowns and eclipsed 1,000 yards as the team's third-leading receiver in 2016.

“Ryan has been a constant in our receiving core for four seasons now,” head coach Clint Dolezel said in a press release. “He has developed into a very skilled athlete who can help lead this team to another winning season.”

Benson, a 29-year-old fullback who attended Florida A&M, has been on five different arena football teams since 2011, spending the last two seasons with the Arizona Rattlers, who lost in the 2016 ArenaBowl to the Soul. Benson was First Team All-Arena last season and had 171 rushes for 507 yards and 37 touchdowns during his time with the Rattlers.

“We have a tradition of running the football and bringing in a guy like Mykel Benson keeps that tradition going,” Dolezel said. “His All-Arena talent will strengthen our offense and help keep our back-to-back ArenaBowl dreams alive.”

The Soul retained the centerpiece of their offense earlier this week, coming to terms with quarterback Dan Raudabaugh

Soul bring back Dan Raudabaugh for sixth season

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Soul bring back Dan Raudabaugh for sixth season

The Philadelphia Soul on Wednesday agreed to terms with quarterback Dan Raudabaugh, who will return for his sixth season with the team and eighth in the AFL.
 
“Dan has proven he can lead a team to a championship and we are looking forward to him leading the charge as we defend our title this season,” Soul head coach Clint Dolezel said in a statement. “There’s not a better quarterback in this league, we now have the best player in the league on our team ready to lead us to another championship.”

Raudabaugh, the 2015 AFL MVP and offensive player of the year, has guided the Soul to three division championships, three conference championships and three ArenaBowl appearances, including a championship last year.  

He finished the 2016 regular season with a 69.3 percent completion percentage, 4,303 total yards and 101 touchdowns.  In his career with the Soul, Raudabaugh has 1,865 completions, 23,115 total yards and 516 touchdowns.

Raudabaugh began his AFL career with the Dallas Vigilantes in 2010-11.