Saturday, March 29, 2008

Soul weather Storm, off to best start in club history

By Michael Rushton
The Phanatic Magazine

Philadelphia, PA - While fans in the City of Brother Love are gearing up for what is typically a slow start by the Phillies, at least one club in town is off to a hot start. The Philadelphia Soul, backed by seven touchdown passes from Matt D’Orazio, improved to its best start in franchise history by downing the Tampa Bay Storm, 59-51.

D’Orazio -- making his second straight start I place of the injured Tony Graziani (knee) -- threw for 296 yards on 25-of-35 throwing, while Larry Brackins and Chris Jackson each hauled in three scores apiece in the victory that improved Philadelphia to 5-0.

Playing in his first game since coming off of injured reserve due to an ankle injury, wide receiver Darius Watts added 66 yards through the air and a score. Anthony Dunn managed five total tackles, had two sacks and forced a key fumble late in the first half that swung the momentum Philadelphia’s way.

Though still undefeated, the Soul had to play from behind a few times in what was anything but a clean win.

“It’s good for us,” said head coach Bret Munsey. “A lot of stuff we can clean up as a staff.”

The Soul got off to a quick start when D’Orazio hit Brackins up the right side for a 37-yard touchdown catch on Philadelphia’s first offensive play from scrimmage. However, the Storm (2-2) quickly answered with a 15-yard TD strike by Brett Dietz to Lawrence Samuels to even things up.

A holding call on the Soul’s next possession negated a scoring catch by Jackson, and kicker Connor Hughes missed on a 29-yard field goal try. That opened the door for the Storm, who jumped in front after Brent Holmes lost Eddie Moten in the end zone en route to a 14-yard TD catch from Dietz.

Helped by a roughing the passed call, the Soul drove the field on their next possession, and D’Orazio, after a nine-yard pass to Watts, took the ball across the goal line himself from five yards out. Hughes missed the point after attempt, leaving the Soul with a 14-13 deficit.

Hughes struggled throughout the game, missing the field goal and three point after attempts.

“In fairness to Connor, we’ve had a different holder each game,” Munsey said.

The clubs then traded field goals before the Soul forced the Storm into a fourth-down situation with just over two minutes left in the first half. Dietz, though, found David Saunders in the back of the end zone from two yards away for a 23-16 edge after Seth Marler’s missed kick with 1:45 to go in the second.

A touchdown catch by Jackson got he Soul within one as Hughes again missed the kick after attempt before the defense changed the game’s momentum. With the Storm driving, Dunn forced a fumble while hitting Dietz and Rod Davis recovering with 10 ticks to go. Hughes sent Philly into the half up 25-23 courtesy of a 32-yard field goal as time expired.

Tampa Bay responded early in the third, going ahead by five on a 39-yard strike by Dietz to Hank Edwards on its first drive of the second half. However, the Soul extended their lead to 39-30 on two quick scores, helped again by the defense.

Philadelphia retook the lead just moments after Tampa’s TD on an eight-yard touchdown pass from D’Orazio to Brackins, and the defense forced its second turnover of the game after George Gause’s forced fumble that was recovered by Moten. D’Orazio promptly hit Jackson for the score and a nine-point edge.

The Soul backed the Storm into a 3rd-and-28 on their next defensive stand, but Samuels was able to maneuver through the defense to the end zone after taking a short pass from Dietz to make it a two-point game.

Touchdowns by Brackins and Watts sandwiched around a Tampa Bay TD gave the Soul an eight-point lead after Hughes had his kick deflected following Watts’ score.

“I knew if we just kept scoring, we would have a chance to put them away,” said D’Orazio, who has 15 touchdown passes in the last two games.

With just over three minutes to go, Samuels hauled in a 22-yard score to make it a 52-51 contest. Facing a 3rd-and-17 with 53.9 seconds left in the fourth, D’Orazio hit a slanting Brackins for a 22-yard gain and a first down with 47 seconds on the clock. Philly then iced the game on a six-yard TD pass from D’Orazio to Jackson 10 seconds later.

“He’s a talent,” Jackson said of Brackins. “If people don’t know about him now, then I guess they are not watching film.”

Soul Food: Jackson’s second-quarter TD catch put him over 12,000 receiving yards for his career. He is just the fourth WR in AFL history to break that mark. Brackins tied a career-high with eight catches…Hughes had made his first 21 point after attempts before missing one in the first quarter…The Soul activated defensive lineman George Gause and wide out Watts from injured reserve on Thursday and placed Tom Johnson on IR. The club also waived wide receiver Clif Dell on Tuesday.

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