For the second straight game, the Soul’s defense kept the team’s playoff hopes alive.
The Soul (9-8) on Sunday held the San Jose SaberCats to 20 points in a 42-20 victory at the Wells Fargo Center. The Soul finished the season 7-2 at home with one game left on the schedule. San Jose, at 12-5, has already clinched its playoff spot.
“I have to start with the defense,” Soul coach Clint Dolezel said. “Twenty points against San Jose, to give up that, they played great tonight. That team scored 70 on us about three months ago. [The defense] played well.
“We did what we had to on offense -- they have a great defense. We can build on that.”
Soul defensive back Rayshaun Kizer finished the game with two interceptions, three breakups and nine tackles, while DB Ken Richardson also intercepted SaberCats quarterback Nathan Stanley.
“Kizer played great ball tonight,” Dolezel said. “Probably two weeks ago you thought he played good against Orlando. Tonight he played really, really good. Tonight he was all over the motion.
“Pass rush was a big part of that, too. They put pressure on [Stanley]. He was nervous back there and we got to him.”
With the win, the Soul can make the playoffs if the Storm (8-8), who play Spokane on Monday night, lose one of their final two games and if the Soul win in Pittsburgh, or if Tampa loses both of its final two games the Soul get in. Orlando clinched the South Division on Saturday with a win over New Orleans.
“We want to worry about things we can control,” Soul quarterback Dan Raudabaugh said of the Tampa-Spokane game. “But I wouldn’t be surprised if the team watches the game somewhere and we already talked about it.
“We’d love a Spokane win. We can’t control it. All we can do is win our games. We’ll have our eyes on it, but we’ll have our minds on Pittsburgh.”
The Soul finish the regular season in Pittsburgh against the Power (14-3) on Saturday.
“We hope Spokane does our job for us tomorrow night against Tampa,” Dolezel said. “We like the fact that it’s in our hands and that’s a good thing after tonight. This was definitely a tough one for us.”
Both teams were slothful in the first half. The first 30 minutes included four penalties -- three by the Soul and one by the SaberCats. The Soul were 1 of 3 on third down and 1 of 2 on fourth down, while San Jose was 3 of 7 and 1 of 3, respectively.
Then, with 1:10 remaining in the half, Soul fullback Derrick Ross energized the crowd and his team with a thundering 32-yard touchdown catch that saw the 6-foot, 250-pounder carry several San Jose defenders more than 20 yards into the end zone.
“The momentum was huge after that,” Dolezel said. “The whole crowd. Our bench. It was definitely an up-lifter. It probably could have changed the game.”
The 30-year-old fullback turned in an astonishing effort. He had two first-half touchdowns -- a rushing TD and that 32-yard TD reception -- and added two more in the second half.
“He was definitely our strong point on the offensive side tonight and he carried us through it,” Dolezel said.
Ross finished with 16 touches (14 rushes, two receptions) for 109 total yards and four TDs.
“That’s what he does, man. He’s a bowling ball,” Raudabaugh said. “He’s ‘The Boss’ for a reason. You can’t come in there and not bring everything with you if you’re trying to get him down.
“Ross is a dynamic player. He does a lot for us, but I don’t want to take anything away from his blocking ability either. He’s done a heck of a job blocking all year.”
Raudabaugh completed 21 of 36 passes for 240 yards, three touchdowns and an interception.
“I thought he played well,” Dolezel said of Raudabaugh. “They did a good job. They put pressure on him a little bit and banged him. The numbers probably weren’t solid, but he did manage the game except for the one pick.”
The focus turns to Pittsburgh -- and Spokane, no matter how much they want to focus on what they can control -- and the Soul have one goal in mind heading into the Steel City.
“Have fun, man,” Raudabaugh said. “That’s what this game’s about. When we’re having fun, we make good plays on defense. We make timely touchdowns. We just got to cut loose and play Soul ball, man.”