ORLANDO — Defense and special teams shined for much of the night as the Orlando Predators (7-5) earned a 45-42 victory over the Philadelphia Soul (10-2) in front of 10,473 fans at the Amway Center on Saturday evening. The win vaults Orlando back into sole possession of first place in the South Division.
The Predators defense stifled Philadelphia’s high-ranking offense throughout the evening, forcing four turnovers while holding the Soul to its lowest scoring output of the season. Defensive back Rod Issacearned Riddell Defensive Player of the Game honors after collecting 3.0 tackles with one interception and one fumble recovery. Defensive back Nick Taylor added 4.5 tackles with four pass breakups, one forced fumble and another fumble recovery. Defensive lineman Calvin Fance collected 2.0 tackles with one pass breakup and one blocked kick while also coming up with a crucial onside kick recovery during the game’s final moments.
Quarterback Bernard Morris did most of his damage on the ground, rushing for 79 yards and three touchdowns while adding 174 yards and two scores through the air. Receivers Larry Brackins andBrandon Thompkins each hauled in six passes as Brackins led the way with 70 yards and a touchdown. Thompkins registered 59 receiving yards and another score while also adding 119 yards and a touchdown on kickoff returns.
Orlando’s defense opened the game with its first stop of the night, denying the Soul inside the red zone. Facing 3rd-&-Goal, Nick Taylor jarred the ball loose with a big hit on Soul wide receiver Marco Thomasat the goal line, then recovered the fumble to regain possession. Bernard Morris proceeded to direct the offense 49 yards down the field on eight plays, capping the drive with a four-yard touchdown strike toBrandon Thompkins for a 7-0 lead.
Defensive end Meshak Williams forced a second fumble with another hard tackle on the first play of the ensuing Philadelphia possession, this time on Soul wide receiver Shaun Kauleinmoku. Rod Issacrecovered the loose ball for the Predators, but Orlando was unable to capitalize on the turnover as Morris was intercepted in the end zone by Soul defensive back LaRico Stevenson a play later. Quarterback Dan Raudabaugh would throw a 34-yard touchdown pass to Marco Thomas for Philadelphia’s first score, but Calvin Fance blocked the PAT attempt to keep the Predators ahead at the end of the first quarter, 7-6.
On the first play of the second quarter, Morris launched a 23-yard touchdown pass to Larry Brackins in the left corner of the end zone to add to Orlando’s lead, 14-6. Philadelphia scored on its next drive as Raudabaugh connected with WR Ryan McDaniel from three yards out, but the Preds offense promptly responded. Two playing into the following possession, Morris scrambled up the middle of the pocket and raced 32 yards untouched to the end zone to put Orlando up, 21-13.
The two teams traded turnovers on their next two drives, as each series ended in a turnover on downs. Philadelphia ended the scoring drought with 23 seconds remaining in the half off a two-yard touchdown reception by Marco Thomas. Brandon Thompkins would field the ensuing kickoff and burst up field, cutting to his left before sprinting 56 yards up the sideline to the end zone. The touchdown was Thompkins’ fourth of the season on a kickoff and gave Orlando a 28-20 advantage at halftime.
Philadelphia regained possession with a successful onside kick to start the third quarter, but Orlando’s defense answered the call as Rod Issac made a leaping interception in the end zone on the ensuing series. Morris converted the turnover into points with a spectacular 12-yard touchdown run as he spun out of tackle before leaping over the goal line to put the Predators ahead, 35-20. The Soul managed to score a series later off a 13-yard pass from Raudabaugh to Marco Thomas, resulting in a 35-27 Orlando lead heading into the final quarter.
Orlando added to its lead moments into the fourth as Mark Lewis booted a successful 25-yard field goal to put the Predators ahead, 38-27. The Soul would make it a one-score game on its next drive as Raudabaugh completed a six-yard touchdown pass to FB Tommy Taggart. OL Adam Smith caught a short pass in the end zone on the two-point conversion, leaving the Predators with a 38-35 advantage.
Morris was intercepted in the end zone by Soul DB Kent Richardson on the ensuing drive and Philadelphia would take a 42-38 lead off a 14-yard touchdown catch by Marco Thomas. The Soul followed the score with an onside kick attempt, but Orlando recovered and quickly regained the lead asBernard Morris rushed for a three-yard score to put the Predators back on top, 45-42.
On the ensuing kickoff, Mark Lewis booted an onside attempt of his own that went bouncing across the field and into the arms of Calvin Fance. Fance secured the recovery to retain possession for Orlando, allowing the Predators to run out the clock to seal the win.