(Photo credit: Philadelphia Soul)
PHILADELPHIA – The Philadelphia Soul continue to show the rest of the league why they’re one of the best teams in the AFL right now, improving to 6-0 through the first six weeks of the season following last night’s 52-35 romp of the Portland Thunder.
It was Philadelphia and Portland’s first-ever showdown, and marked Portland head coach Mike Hohensee’s return to Philadelphia (served as Soul head coach in 2011).
But the 17-point rout in front of a home crowd of 7,011 at the Wells Fargo Center came at a price. Tempers on the field began to flare between the two sides in the third quarter, and during a Soul scoring drive late in the quarter a scuffle broke out near the goal line. Philadelphia wideout Marco Thomas and Portland DB Quincy Butler were both subsequently ejected from the game, and after tossing his helmet into the stands Butler may even face a suspension from the league this week.
Philadelphia quarterback Dan Raudabaugh, who is currently on pace to potentially run away with the League MVP award, tossed for 274 yards and 6 touchdowns––four of which went to WR Shaun Kauleinamoku––despite an off day from standout receiver Ryan McDaniel (2 catches, 13 yards) and the early ejection of Thomas. Dan now has 1,720 yards and 40 touchdowns through the air this season, throwing just four picks in six games.
“Dan takes what they give us,” said head coach Clint Dolezel following the victory. “If they’re going to come on our shallow routes we’re going to go behind them…We executed it well.”
Kauleinamoku is Philadelphia’s third receiver behind McDaniel and Thomas, but he took over the show on offense for the Soul throughout Saturday night’s game, and has stepped up in a big way this season after spending the 2014 season racking up over 1,300 receiving yards for the now-defunct Pittsburgh Power. His four touchdown catches marks the second-most he’s had in a single-game over his six-year AFL career. He added seven catches for 122 yards, his second 100-yard game of the season.
“Our guys are ready to step in and make a play when their number is called,” Raudabaugh stated to the press after the win. “They’re out there doing hard work every play, to either get open themselves or get someone else open.”
Though they’re sitting atop the league with fellow undefeated San Jose, Dolezel and Raudabaugh aren’t satisfied with the victory over Portland.
“It’s obviously great (being undefeated). Winning solves everything. But there’s a right way to do it too, and tonight wasn’t the right way,” Dolezel said. “We didn’t play well. We had too many penalties, and it felt a little like the second half of last week’s New Orleans game.”
As they head into a short week and begin preparing to host the tough Orlando Predators (3-3), Dolezel’s squad will need to eliminate some of the mistakes and sloppy second half play that they’ve experienced over the last couple of weeks.