PHILADELPHIA – The Philadelphia Soul (12-2) took a step in the right direction last night with a victory over the Tampa Bay Storm (6-7), becoming the second AFL team this season to clinch a playoff berth.
Despite yet another slow start, head coach Clint Dolezel’s Soul squad overcame an early 14-point deficit to defeat the Storm, 64-42.
“That’s always the goal for us, first and foremost. To get into the playoffs,” Dolezel said following the victory. “Then it’s the division, then it’s winning the conference, and then it’s the ArenaBowl. So it’s nice to do it this early, but that’s the last thing on our mind right now. We’re trying to win the division.”
Quarterback Dan Raudabaugh, who finished the game completing 23 of his 39 pass attempts for 274 yards and eight touchdowns, tossed just two first half touchdowns as Philly went into the half trailing 21-14. But a 23-point third quarter and 27-point fourth quarter, including a Bryan Robinson safety on Storm QB Jason Boltus, and a Robinson fumble recovery returned for a 34-yard touchdown.
The Robinson sack of Boltus that led to a safety, which came five minutes into the second half, turned things around for the Soul and gave them the first lead of the game. They never looked back after that.
Raudabaugh’s eight touchdowns went to five different players, including three to WR Marco Thomas (10 catches, 116 yards), and a pair of TDs to offensive lineman Adam Smith.
“We just didn’t get into a groove early. We came into the half and coach was rather upset, you could see it on all the guys’ faces too,” Raudabaugh said of the slow start. “But we got a rhythm there in the second half. Our guys made plays in the end.”
While Philadelphia will enjoy the playoff berth for the time being, heading into the Week 15 bye week, it will be short-lived. With a few match-ups left with the Cleveland Gladiators (7/11, 8/8), Jacksonville Sharks (7/18) and New Orleans VooDoo (8/2) in the final month of the season, they won’t be taking it easy heading into the AFL postseason in August.