Soul want a win, not revenge, in Pittsburgh


Soul want a win, not revenge, in Pittsburgh

The Soul won't call it a revenge game, even if it is one.

Saturday's matchup with the Pittsburgh Power will have something on the line, though. It will be the difference between the Soul being 0-3 in the American Conference East Division or picking up their first win in the division for a 1-2 record.

Either way, the "must-win" label is already being mentioned among the players.

"They're all must-win games," Soul quarterback Dan Raudabaugh said. "It's just how we're treating them now. ... We need to get that first win in the division and there is no better chance than this week."

You don't have to remind the Soul about those fourth-quarter problems, one of which came against Pittsburgh in Week 7. They know.

The Soul pretty much outplayed the Power in that 53-48 loss. They had more yards (313-274), ran more plays (49-48), had more first downs (21-20). But the Power did outscore the Soul 13-0 in the fourth quarter, which was the big difference.

"We took Pittsburgh lightly the last time they came in here and they came in here and handed it to us plain and simple," defensive back LaRico Stevenson said. "This go around, we know what we got at stake, and we're going to go out there and play and give it our all."

The Soul did have a chance late in the fourth quarter in the last game against the Power.

The Soul trialed by five with 31 seconds remaining and got the ball to the Pittsburgh 19-yard line, but Raudabaugh threw an interception with 12 seconds remaining, which sealed the deal. Raudabaugh finished the game going 23 for 41 for 288 yards, four touchdowns and that one interception.

"You got to have a short-term memory in football and at quarterback especially," Raudabaugh said when recalling them game. "The most important play is the next play. We're disappointed that it happened, but we can't go back and change the results."

Soul wide receiver Tiger Jones didn't take the revenge bait when recalling the loss. Jones finished the game with eight receptions for 124 yards and a touchdown. One could say his performance was all for naught.

He didn't look at it that way, but Jones instead took the one-game-at-a-time stance.

"We obviously don't want to get swept by them," he said. "I don't think it's a revenge thing, it's just taking it one game at a time regardless of who we have to play. We have to take care of what we do, and I think we'll be alright."

Said Soul head coach Clint Dolezel: "It's somebody in our way. Doesn't matter if we beat them, lost, whatever, we got to go win. We've got to get on a roll. We're over the halfway point. We have to start getting to where we're really starting to play good football in all three phases."

This week might be the perfect time.

The 3-8 Power have lost their last two games and are 2-4 in their last six games. Pittsburgh is last in the AFL in scoring, averaging 40.6 points, but the Power do make it hard on opponents who like to throw the ball, boasting the league's top pass defense. The Power are allowing opponents an average of just 222.7 passing yards. The thing is, they are last in the league in rushing defense (29.5 yards), so a good dose of fullback Derrick Ross may be in store.

Even with all those stats, Dolezel still wants his team to be prepared. The Soul may be better on paper, but taking Pittsburgh lightly -- again -- is not the game plan.

What is in the game plan is for the Soul to play like they're facing one of the best teams in the league, not one of the worst. Play with some sizzle. Play like they are the best in the division, which is where they currently stand.

"We have to play like we're playing Arizona," Dolezel said. "We got to show up and think that they're going to come out here and play their best football."

But it's not a revenge game. Or is it?

Raudabaugh used the "revenge" label at first, but when asked again, he changed his viewpoint.

"It's not revenge or payback, but I feel like we owe them something," Raudabaugh said. "They came in and matched our intensity and beat us at home. But we're going to treat it like any other game because we want to win them all.

"We just have to execute for four quarters, starting from the first drive to the last," he added. "We got to be better on our first drive of the game, make sure we go down there and get a touchdown. ... We just have to make plays when opportunities come up."

They'll be plenty of plays. Whether the Soul can capitalize on them from start to finish this go round, well, time will tell.

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.”

Jake Metz, Soul credit strong 4th-quarter defensive effort for championship win

Jake Metz, Soul credit strong 4th-quarter defensive effort for championship win

GLENDALE, Ariz. – Despite the Soul leading by three touchdowns early in ArenaBowl XXIX, there was little cheering from the their bench.

Given the volatility that is Arena League football and the frequency with which teams can strike, the approach remained resolute and determined. Defensive tackle Jake Metz kept the mindset of a scoreless game and could not stop hearing words coming from Ron Jaworski, a highly vocal partner in the Soul’s ownership.

“He kept yelling that offense gets headlines but defense wins championships,” said Metz, who currently lives in Schwenksville, Montgomery County, and went to Shippensburg University. “That resounded with me, and brought the championship.”

Metz and his defensive teammates then went out and shut down a highly hazardous and explosive Arizona Rattlers offensive unit en route to a 56-42 win (see story). Led by quarterback Nick Davila, the only three-time MVP in Arena Football League history, the Rattlers could manage only seven points in a critical fourth quarter.

At the same time, Metz recovered a fumble by Davila with the Soul holding a slim six-point margin with just under six minutes to play. That turnover was the key point in the Soul’s eventual win, and cemented the role of the defense as a shut-down unit.

On the subsequent possession, Soul quarterback Dan Raudabaugh connected with Shaun Kauleinamoku on a 30-yard scoring strike. That created a 14-point comfort zone and the final margin of victory.

“These players deserve this championship,” Soul head coach Clint Dolezel said. “This is a first class organization and ownership gives the players a first-class experience. That way, we can attract great players, and with great players comes success.”

In capturing the league title Friday night, the victory was the second in franchise history. In 2008, the Soul and Phillies each won championships, and that was the last time a professional team captured a title in Philadelphia.

Metz remembers the Phillies' win over the Rays, and pointed out, “I went to those games as a kid.” That championship stuck with the 6-foot-6, 265 pounder, and helped to forge a championship mentality.

Early in the fourth quarter, Arizona caught the Soul at 42-42. From that point, Raudabaugh directed two scoring drives, and along with Metz’s important fumble recovery, carried the Soul to the title.

“It’s all about how you respond,” said Raudabaugh, who finished with 20 for 36 for 278 yards and six touchdowns. “Granted, they have a very explosive team, but we were never out it. They did come back, but we had an answer for them.”

The answer was a strong defense which Dolezel indicated was playing at their peak just prior to the title game.

Defensive back Tracy Belton, the AFL defensive player of the year and DB Dwayne Hollis, whose fumble recovery for a touchdown early in the game was another key defensive play, clearly showed how a defense can carry a team to a league title. That was the effort the Soul brought together in an environment as unpredictable as the Arena Football League.