Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Soul stay unbeaten; Graziani hurt again

-Courtesy of the Philadelphia Soul

Columbus, OH (April 21) -- Quarterbacks Tony Graziani and Matt D’Orazio combined for nine touchdowns, leading the unbeaten Philadelphia Soul to its eighth victory, a 76-55 win over the Columbus Destroyers Monday night at Nationwide Arena.

The victory set up a showdown this coming Monday night in Philadelphia, where the Soul host the Dallas Desperados in the Arena Football League’s latest ever (Week 9) confrontation between undefeated teams. Philadelphia is 8-0 and Dallas is 7-0 in the league’s Eastern Division, the only unbeaten teams in the league.

The game will be the featured Monday night attraction on ESPN 2 and will serve as the culmination of V Week, in which the league is working with the Jimmy V Foundation to help raise money for cancer research in honor of late college basketball coach Jim Valvano.

D’Orazio ended 15-of-19 passing for 167 yards with five touchdowns and no interceptions, while Graziani went 11-of-13 for 125 yards with four TDs. Graziani was forced to leave the game in the second quarter when tweeked his left knee injury. Graziani was making his first start since suffering a sprained left knee in Week 3 against New York.

Larry Brackins ended with nine catches for 134 yards and three touchdowns for the Soul, who are not only increased their best start in franchise history but also riding the best winning streak in team history.

The Soul played from behind through the early stages of the game, with Columbus quarterback Matt Nagy throwing long touchdowns on each of the Destroyers’ first three offensive plays. The Soul matched each of those scores with a Graziani TD pass as the veteran signal caller made a successful return from the knee injury suffered in week three. Graziani re-injured the knee on the third TD pass and D’Orazio came in and immediately delivered two touchdowns as the Soul took a 42-35 halftime lead.

D’Orazio then led the Soul to a 20-point lead at the start of the third quarter and the visitors held off Columbus the rest of the way.

Defensively, the Soul standouts included Rod Davis, whose third quarter interception led to the first 20-point lead. The defense notched another stop early in the fourth period and offensive lineman Phil Bogle caught his second lineman-eligible touchdown of the game to give Philadelphia, the league’s highest scoring team, a 69-42 lead.

Jackson, the Soul free-agent pickup who is on pace to break several all-time Arena League receiving records this year, had touchdown catches of four, four and 12 yards to maintain his remarkable pace. His 29 receiving TDs this year are a Soul single-season record, bettering the former mark of 28 set by Steve Smith in 2005.

Jackson also has 298 career touchdowns catches, moving him within just two of becoming just the third player in league history to hit the 300-mark for a career.

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