Soul want a win, not revenge, in Pittsburgh

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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.

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 from 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 quarter 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.

Soul fight off Rattlers' comeback bid, win ArenaBowl XXIX

Soul fight off Rattlers' comeback bid, win ArenaBowl XXIX

GLENDALE, Ariz. — Prior to ArenaBowl XXIX, the consensus among players and coaches was the team which makes fewer mistakes had a reasonable chance to win.

When the Arizona Rattlers committed two critical turnovers in the initial minutes Friday night, the Soul jumped out to an early lead and then capitalized on big plays from the defense to earn a 56-42 win and their second ArenaBowl title in franchise history.

The championship is the first for a professional team in Philadelphia since the Soul and Phillies each took individual titles in 2008. Villanova captured the men’s NCAA basketball championship this past April.

Coming into the title game at Gila River Arena, Arizona averaged 83.0 points per game in postseason play, and the Soul defense, which averaged 45.5 points allowed in playoff competition, did not deviate from its norm.

“We trust in our defense,” said defensive back Dwayne Hollis, who scored on an early fumble recovery and had a key interception late. “The fumble was great work from the line. A few guys got in there and the ball came loose. I was able pick it up and I only saw the end zone.”

This one started in a way all too familiar to the Soul defense.

Following a 16-yard touchdown reception from Darius Reynolds, and an early 7-0 Soul lead, Hollis scored just over three minutes later. That’s when he picked up the fumble from Rattlers running back Mykel Benson and ran 48 yards for the score.

On the ensuing kickoff, the Rattlers’ Anthony Amos could not handle the rebound off the netting in the end zone and Tracy Belton, the AFL Defensive Player of the Year, scooped up the loose ball for a touchdown. That brought the Soul out to a 21-0 lead less than seven minutes into the game, and created a relatively secure comfort level.

“We go against those guys every day in practice, and know how good our defense really is,” said quarterback Dan Raudabaugh, who finished with a 20-for-36 night, 278 yards and six touchdowns. “This is such a great defense, and they proved it when it counted.”

Despite an early lead, the Rattlers managed to catch the Soul at 42-42 early in the fourth quarter. On the next possession, Raudabaugh engineered a six-play scoring drive that culminated in a 21-yard TD strike to Shaun Kauleinamoku. After the extra point was blocked, that created a six-point lead, and then the key defensive play of the game.

As Arizona quarterback Nick Davila attempted to pass from the Soul 15-yard line, his arm was hit and defensive tackle Jake Metz recovered. From there, Raudabaugh connected with Kauleinamoku on a 30-yard scoring strike, and this one was in the win column for the Soul.

“Our defense is persistent,” said Metz, a native of Souderton, Pennsylvania, who went to Shippensburg University. “This group never gives up, and we did our job.”

In postgame awards, Kauleinamoku was named the Playmaker of the Game, and Belton was honored as the Defensive Player of the Game.

For his key 30-yard TD reception late in the game, Kauleinamoku was given the Catch of the Game, and Hollis’ fumble recovery and touchdown early was noted as the Highlight of the Game.

Soul's Clint Dolezel shares Coach of the Year award with Rattlers' Kevin Guy

Soul's Clint Dolezel shares Coach of the Year award with Rattlers' Kevin Guy

For the third time in five seasons, the Soul and Arizona Rattlers will compete in the ArenaBowl. Prior to Friday night's 7 p.m. matchup, the leaders of both squads, Soul coach Clint Dolezel and Rattlers coach Kevin Guy, were each named Marcum Moss Coach of the Year.

Dolezel and Guy will share the award but not the ArenaBowl trophy, which the Soul haven't won since their lone triumph in 2008 over the San Jose Sabercats. Dolezel, who has been at the helm since August 2012, led the Soul to the ArenaBowl in 2012 and 2013 but lost to the Rattlers on both occasions.

This season, Dolezel, who spent over a decade as a quarterback in the AFL, coached the Soul to a 13-3 regular-season record. The team advanced to the ArenaBowl with a dramatic win in the American Conference championship game over the Jacksonville Sharks.

Dolezel also earned the Coach of the Year award last season for guiding the Soul to a 15-3 overall mark and a conference championship game appearance.

“Without a question, Clint is one of the best offensive minds in AFL history,” Soul majority owner Ron Jaworski said in a press release. “His success is attributed to a great deal of preparation and hard work. To make a playoff appearance every year as a head coach shows his dedication and willingness to win.”