Sunday, April 13, 2008

Wild comeback keeps Soul undefeated

-Courtesy of the Philadelphia Soul

SAN JOSE (April 12) -- Clifton Smith scored on a two-point conversion with 10 seconds left to give the Philadelphia Soul a 58-57 come-from-behind victory over the San Jose SaberCats Saturday night at the HP Pavilion. The victory lifted the Soul to 7-0 on the season and set up a possible battle of undefeated teams when the Dallas Desperados visit Philadelphia on April 28.

The loss dropped San Jose, winners of three Arena Bowls since 2002, to 3-4. Placekicker A.J. Haglund barely missed a 48-yard field goal attempt as time expired to seal the Soul comeback.

Trailing 33-14 at the half and down by as many as 26 points in the first half, the Soul charged back behind quarterback Matt D’Orazio and defensive back Mike Brown, pulling to within one point on D’Orazio’s five-yard quarterback draw with 10 seconds left. Head coach Bret Munsey then called for the two-point conversion, keeping D’Orazio on the bench in favor of the direct snap to Smith, who plunged in for the win.

Earlier, the Soul tied it up at 50-50 with one minute left when D’Orazio hit Chris Jackson for 41-yard catch and run followed by the two point conversion, a D’Orazio dart over the middle to Larry Brackins. Brown had a kickoff return for a touchdown to pull the Soul within five points late in the fourth quarter before D’Orazio and Smith completed the comeback.

D’Orazio ended up 27-of-46 for 327 yards with five touchdowns and two interceptions. Jackson totaled 11 catches for 175 yards and won Offensive Player of the Game honors.

SaberCats quarterback Mark Grieb threw six touchdown passes, including three to James Roe, to spark San Jose throughout the game.

The SaberCats jumped out to a 20-0 lead behind Grieb, whose precision passing had the Soul off balance throughout the game. He hit Rodney Wright for a 10-yard touchdown on the first possession and connected with Roe from seven yards before the end of the first quarter. The SaberCats also scored on a pair of one yards runs by Frank Carter in forging the 19-point halftime lead.

The SaberCats defense was strong early, getting two interceptions from Marquis Floyd in the first quarter thanks to consistent pass rush pressure on D’Orazio. The Soul finally broke through with a D’Orazio to Darius Watts 20-yard touchdown early in the second quarter. Then, Smith added a one-yard touchdown run with 10 seconds left in the first half.

The game was supposed to mark the comeback of quarterback Tony Graziani, who at game time was judged unable to start, leaving D’Orazio to handle the quarterback duties for the fourth straight week.

The Soul will try to extend their undefeated season when they visit the Columbus Destroyers on Monday night, April 21.

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