Philadelphia, PA — Behind the sensational play of wide receiver Ryan McDaniel, the Philadelphia Soul were able to remain undefeated this season, defeating the Jacksonville Sharks 63-52 in front of an energized Wells Fargo crowd for the 2015 Soul home opener.
“I was happy with the turnout today,” quarterback Dan Raudabaugh said about the crowd. “Everyone was really energetic.”
Raudabaugh had himself a game. The quarterback threw for 261 yards and 8 touchdowns, earning himself Russell Offensive Player of the Game, adding to his early 2015 success. Opposite him, quarterback Tommy Grady, threw for 346 yards and 8 touchdowns in the losing effort.
Philadelphia is off to an early 3-0 thru the first three games of the 2015 season, a total 180-degree flip from the 0-3 start just a season ago.
“It feels a lot different,” Raudabaugh said about the start. “Maybe it took some changing of faces in there and guys really dedicating themselves in the offseason.”
“We kinda got complacent with the guys we had over the recent years,” head coach Clint Dolezel said. “But the new faces have definitely lifted us up.”
Those new faces on offense — full back Tommy Taggart, wide receivers Marco Thomas and Shaun Kauleinamoku — playing in their first home game for the Soul, combined for four touchdowns and 141 yards of offense contributing to the win.
“We just have great guys — top-class guys — who came in here and do what they’re supposed to do,” McDaniel said about tonight’s victory. “We got guys who are unselfish and want to go win.”
Collecting 11 receptions for 133 yards as well as 5 touchdowns, McDaniels was awarded the J. Lewis Small Playmaker of The Game, sharing the award with former teammate Tiger Jones.
Jones, who was returning to Philadelphia to face his former team for the first time, torched the Soul defense. In his return, the Sharks receiver collected 13 catches for 239 yards and 5 touchdowns in the hard fought effort.
“We came in and were focused on getting the win,” Jones said about tonight. “Unfortunately we didn’t get it.”
Philadelphia had been running away with game, building up a huge 28-point lead late in the third quarter. Jacksonville managed to squander the deficit to eleven after some late sloppy Raudabaugh turnovers turned into points. But it was to little too late.
“We played three solid quarters,” Dolezel said. “In the fourth quarter we kind of fell back and we’ve got to learn to finish better than that.”
After tonight’s loss, the Sharks fall to a surprising 0-3 start to the season. This was a team that was projected by many as being the early favorites to win Arena Bowl 28 after retooling their entire team in the offseason.
Next week, the Soul will welcome the Cleveland Gladiators to town — a team Philadelphia knows all too well, dropping three heartbreakers including being eliminated from the AFL playoffs at the hands of them.
“We know each other well,” Raudabaugh said about the Gladiators. “They beat us three times, so there’s no doubt that hurt us this offseason.”
After an impressive victory tonight, Philadelphia looks like a very dangerous team, poised to make a statement early on. With the offense clicking the way it has through the first three weeks of the season and a defense that is progressing, the Soul’s best performances are still yet to come. For a team that has a lot of new weapons offensively and defensively, this team is beginning to find their groove.