PHILADELPHIA – Coming off its 100th victory in franchise history a week ago, the Philadelphia Soul (3-1) entered Saturday looking to continue its win streak against the rival Cleveland Gladiators, which was sitting at five consecutive victories. They did just that, defeating Cleveland 67-50 and improving to 2-0 against Cleveland this season in the process.
Reigning league MVP Dan Raudabaugh and his offense got off to a somewhat sluggish start in the first half of play, throwing a pick-6 in the second quarter which extended Cleveland’s lead to 28-13. Two missed extra points from placekicker Pat Clarke stifled Philadelphia’s roll, but thanks to a last-second acrobatic touchdown toss from Raudabaugh to veteran WR Darius Reynolds, Philadelphia went into the break only trailing by two points, 28-26.
“I think we caught some rhythm there,” Soul quarterback Dan Raudabaugh said in a post-game presser. “Come late first half we were able to get two before the half and one afterwards. Not much rhythm early in the game, which is pretty uncharacteristic for us.”
It was the second half in which the Philadelphia began to lock things down, and the defense even knocked Cleveland’s starting quarterback Dennis Havrilla out of the game. Before being replaced by backup QB Arvell Nelson, the inexperienced Havrilla tossed for just 86 yards and a touchdown on 5-of-16 passing, and also throwing one interception.
Philadelphia took its first lead of the game on its opening drive of the third quarter, and the two squads proceeded to trade leads a couple of times before Philadelphia took the lead for good. Rauadabaugh hit veteran receiver Darius Reynolds––in his first season with the Soul––for three touchdowns in the game. Raudabaugh finished the game with 315 yards, 8 touchdowns and one interception on 26-of-31 passing, and threw touchdowns to four different receivers (Reynolds 3, Ryan McDaniel 2, Shaun Kaleinamoku 2, Chris Duvalt).
But the 17-point victory did not come easily for Philadelphia, as the two squads––a heated rivalry the past few seasons before the Gladiators switched Conferences over the off-season––experienced plenty of chippiness throughout the game.
“Every time we play Cleveland that’s the way it is,” Soul head coach Clint Dolezel stated after the win, referring to the chippy play from both teams. “Doesn’t matter what the score is. That’s how it starts out, and it finishes that way too. We have to clean it up, that’s not who we are.”
Between the two teams there were 19 penalties, and an ejection when Soul WR Darius Reynolds was tackled viciously on a helmet-to-helmet hit in the third quarter.
Philadelphia’s defensive unit limited the Gladiators’ offense, between both quarterbacks, to just 243 yards of total offense, 13-of-30 with three picks through the air, 13 first downs, and just a 50% red zone efficiency (4-of-8). Richard Clebert, Philadelphia’s newest member, recorded his first sack in a Soul uniform.
A Joe Goosby interception late in the third quarter seemed to be the turning point of the game, allowing the Soul offense to extend its lead to 46-35. Bruising fullback Jeramie Richardson, the league’s leading rusher, ran the ball in from one yard out to give coach Dolezel the comfortable 11-point lead. It was Richardson’s second touchdown of the game.
From there, Nelson threw touchdown passes to Quentin Sims and Collin Taylor, but it wasn’t enough to bring the Gladiators back. A late Tracy Belton interception of Nelson in the end zone set up the game-sealing 45-yard touchdown from Raudabaugh to Chris Duvalt, cementing Philadelphia’s 67-50 victory.
The win puts Philadelphia at 3-1, and drops the Gladiators to 1-3 on the season. Now Philadelphia will turn around and make a cross-country trip to Los Angeles to battle the LA KISS next weekend.