Saturday, May 17, 2008

Soul set franchise record; dump Destroyers

Philadelphia, PA (The Phanatic Magazine) - It took three weeks but the banged up Philadelphia Soul finally won their franchise record 10th game on Saturday by downing the struggling Columbus Destroyers, 51-43, in front of an announced sellout of 18,741 at the Wachovia Center.

The Soul (10-2), playing without star quarterback Tony Graziani and four key defenders -- defensive end Bryan Save, linebacker Rod Davis and defensive backs Mike Brown and Brian Mance, snapped a two-game skid and remained perfect at home (6-0).

Matt D'Orazio completed 19-of-23 passes for 284 yards and seven touchdowns, while Chris Jackson had five receptions for 80 yards and three TDs, surpassing Eddie Brown for second on the all-time AFL TD receptions list.

Larry Brackins added eight catches for 127 yards and two scores.

Former Delaware star Matt Nagy connected on 23-of-35 passes for 308 yards and three TDs for the defending National Conference champion Destroyers (2-9), who dropped their fifth straight game.

Calvin Russell had six receptions for 125 yards for Columbus and C.J. Johnson had five for 61 yards and two TDs.

With the game deadlocked at 28, the Soul received a scare when D'Orazio left for a play after his bell was rung. The QB returned, however, and hit Brackins on a seven-yard slant to make it a 35-28 game with 4:40 left in the third quarter.

Philadelphia then finally carved out some breathing room when All-AFL defensive end Gabe Nyenhuis got loose on a stunt and sacked Nagy in the end zone for a safety, giving the Soul a 37-28 edge and the football.

D'Orazio then quickly hooked up with Jackson on a 26-yard corner route for a TD and all of a sudden Philadelphia had a 44-28 advantage with 1:03 left in the third.

A miraculous Nagy TD pass to Derek Lee early in the fourth quarter put the Destroyers back in the game. The Delaware product threw the ball across his body and to the middle of the field while being crushed by both Anthony Dunn and Kevin Carberry. Somehow it found Lee and Columbus was down by just nine points, 44-35, with 11:48 left.

Any Destroyers momentum was quickly stymied just over three minutes later when D'Orazio found the 322-pound Phil Bogle on a brilliant slip-screen for a 21-yard score.

The Destroyers weren't about to go down easily and made it a one-possession game, 51-43, when Johnson made a leaping TD grab and Russell followed with a two-point conversion with 4:37 left.

The Soul responded by using a series of short, high-percentage passes that siphoned time off the clock, moved them slowly down the field and forced Columbus to burn its remaining timeouts.

After D'Orazio found a wide open Brent Holmes in the right flat, the Destroyers were forced to use their final timeout with 1:16 on the clock and the game belonged to Philadelphia after D'Orazio kneeled down twice to seal things.

The Philadelphia defense came out on fire and forced Mark Lewis to miss a 46-yard field goal on the Destroyers' first possession. Consecutive sacks by Dunn and Justin Cleveland forced the long kick and gave the Soul a chance to light up the scoreboard first.

D'Orazio needed little time before hitting Jackson for a seven-yard score with just over eight minutes to go in the opening quarter.

Columbus answered with a methodical drive, capped by a one-yard Harold Wells TD run. The ensuing PAT failed, however, when holder Justin Zwick couldn't handle a shaky snap from Howard Duncan and the Destroyers trailed 7-6 heading to the second quarter.

Philadelphia drove all the way to the Columbus three before a D'Orazio fumble and a false start penalty bogged things down. Soul coach Bret Munsey made the call to let Connor Hughes attempt a 28-yard field goal that went wide right, giving the Destroyers an opportunity to take their first lead.

Nagy cashed in by hooking up with Johnson on a 20-yard score, putting Columbus on top 13-7 with under six minutes to go in the half.

The Destroyers lead didn't last long as D'Orazio went deep down the left sideline to find a streaking Jackson for a 32-yard score. The TD was Jackson's 35th of the year and 304th of his career, surpassing Brown for second on the all-time AFL list.

The see-saw action continued when Nagy took it in himself from a yard out and Wells followed by converting a two-point conversion to give the Destroyers a 21-14 edge with 33.3 seconds left before intermission.

Rob Keefe bumbled the ensuing kickoff forcing D'Orazio and Company to go 49 yards in the remaining time. Brackins was up to the task, taking a hitch pass and breaking a tackle, before racing 43 yards to the end zone and deadlocking things at 21 with 19.3 ticks remaining.

A major facemask penalty on Sean Scott gave Columbus an extra play at the end of the half but Lewis came up empty from 28 yards out, keeping things even.

The Soul took the opening kickoff in the second half and went back in front when D'Orazio found Holmes, who was signed earlier in the week, for a 18-yard TD.

The Destroyers matched Philly on their opening possession of the half thanks to a six-yard TD run by Rasheed Marshall.

Soul Food: Damian Harrell is the AFL TD reception king with 312...Glen Gauntt, who was signed earlier in the week, replaced D'Orazio for one play in the third quarter...Jackson also passed Eddie Brown for fourth place on the all-time AFL reception list with 952...Philadelphia is 6-4 all-time versus Columbus...

No comments: