ATLANTIC CITY, NJ – With a playoff spot already clinched, the Soul traveled to Jim Whelan Boardwalk Hall on Saturday night to face the surging Atlantic City Blackjacks.
Philadelphia had taken the prior two meetings, winning the season opener on the strength of two James Romain pick-sixes, and demolishing the Blackjacks in the second meeting at the Wells Fargo Center.
One of the biggest challenges awaiting the Soul at Boardwalk hall was red-hot Blackjacks quarterback Warren Smith. The gunslinger out of the University of Maine put on a show against the Valor last weekend, going 22 of 28, for 209 yards and five touchdowns in a 70-41 win.
However, the defense stepped up when needed. Romain recorded his eighth pick six this season early in the first quarter off a deflected pass.
And Dwayne Hollis bought his own birthday present, snagging a pick-six to regain momentum for the Soul after Atlantic City had recovered its second consecutive onside kick in the fourth quarter. Hollis spoke about the moment after the game, in what would eventually be a 50-45 win for the Soul.
“I think it was a big play,” Hollis said. “I kind of just read it, the way that he was blocking. I turned my eyes and the quarterback let it go, and I was able to make a play.”
Hollis also talked about what it was like playing the Blackjacks for the third time this season.
“We knew it was gonna be tough,” Hollis added. “They’re kind of fighting for their playoff life. We knew it was gonna be a lot of chit-chatting and things like that, but we were able to just come out and make enough plays and make one more play than them.”
The defense set the table, but it was up to the offense to serve. That was taken care of by Darius Prince, who has emerged in recent weeks as Soul Quarterback Dan Raudabaugh’s favorite target.
Prince scored on a deep throw from Raudabaugh with 13 seconds left in regulation. That touchdown would hold as the winning score. Speaking to the assembled media afterwards, he broke down what he saw from the Blackjacks defense on the play.
“When I was going in motion by myself, I knew, looking at the defense and watching film, that they play a lot of man to man,” Prince said. “So when I was coming in motion, I’m not really paying attention to the guy that’s in front of me, I’m looking towards the backside guy cause he’s gonna tell me what type of defense they’re in.”
Prince continued, saying; “And I seen Ross [sic] short. And at that time I knew I’m going post all the way. I think it was 24, [Arthur] Hobbs, he was playing a little bit outside of me, he gave me the post, and Dan [Raudabaugh] just threw the ball. When the ball’s in the air, you gotta make a play.”
With the win, Philly moves to 7-4, and in shouting distance of the Albany Empire, who will need to win just one of their last two games to lock up the first seed.
Next week, both the Soul and Blackjacks are on their bye week. Albany will play Columbus, and Baltimore will take on Washington.
SOUL SNIPPETS: Dan Raudabaugh was 16 of 24 passing, good for 221 yards and three touchdowns…Prince led all Soul receivers with eight catches for 124 yards and two touchdowns…Adrian Ferns scored two rushing touchdowns for the Soul on six carries…Soul Defensive linemen Jameer Outsey and Thomas Dover each had a sack on Smith