This one left a sour taste in their mouth.
The Soul (6-8) on Saturday lost on a last-second touchdown to the Gladiators, falling 69-68, at the Wells Fargo Center. It was the second time this year the Soul lost on a last-second TD to Cleveland.
“Games like that hurts -- losing any game hurts -- but a game like that hurts exponentially more,” Soul quarterback Dan Raudabaugh said, “especially after the way we played them tough the first time and had it slip through our fingers.
“I don’t know if it’s fully set in yet but it’s tough. You can see it on our guys' faces -- that one hurts.”
After Markee White gave the Soul a 68-63 lead with two seconds remaining in the fourth quarter, Soul kicker Jon Striefsky booted the kick through the uprights to give Cleveland the ball with 47 yards to work with.
One Hail Mary later -- a toss from Gladiators QB Shane Austin that was deflected into the air after a jump-ball and landed in the hands of Domini Goodman -- and the Soul dropped their third game in a row.
It’s the second three-game losing skid of the season for the Soul.
“It’s not just this game,” Soul head coach Clint Dolezel said. “We’ve done it all year long. We’ve lost games that have been just like that. The frustration is overwhelming right now.”
Raudabaugh finished 19 for 27 for 250 yards, five touchdowns and one interception. But that one pick proved to be crucial, as it cost the Soul a chance to score on all of their possessions.
Instead, they finished eight for nine.
“Should have been nine for nine,” Dolezel said. “The pick was somebody wide open right behind the guy he threw it to. If you want to win football games, you can’t make mistakes that they don’t force on you. If it’s unforced, it’s on you.”
Raudabaugh acknowledged the mistake, calling the interception a “poor read.”
“Eight for nine in this game is alright. Nine for nine is what you go for, and I’ll wear that one,” Raudabaugh said. “I’ll shoulder that burden for our team. I put us in a tough spot there.”
At 12-1, the Gladiators have the second-best record in the AFL -- second only to Arizona (13-0), which beat the Soul in each of the last two ArenaBowls.
“From the looks of it, they’re one play better than us,” Raudabaugh said of the Gladiators. “But they have a horseshoe stuck up where the sun don’t shine right now, but I’m not taking any credit away from them.”
The Soul have four games remaining. Next up is a game in Iowa. They’re two games under .500. Playoffs are still within reach, but they’ll need to win out and get some help.
“I don’t think we’re out of it,” Raudabaugh said. “There’s four games left. We can go 4-0 -- that puts us at 10-8 and in a good spot. Need some help from other teams, but that’s why you play the game.”
“We feel a little snake bit, but that’s how it is sometimes,” Dolezel said. “We still have things to look forward to. Two teams ahead of us right now have a tough schedule as well. We keep playing.”
But if the Soul continue to be inconsistent like they have all year, playoffs will be out of reach. And even if they do squeak in, their inconsistent play makes it hard to believe they’ll be players for a third straight ArenaBowl appearance.
“Same formula why we lose football games,” Dolezel said. “We have opportunities to make plays, offense and defense and special teams as well and we don’t.
“That’s the formula to lose football games against good football teams. You can get away with them against mediocre teams, but not the good ones.”
And the good ones will be who the Soul face. That is, if they make it to the dance.