Sunday, June 15, 2008

Soul nips Gladiators

-courtesy of the Philadelphia Soul

Philadelphia (June 14) -- Defensive back Eddie Moten made a leaping interception of a two-point conversion pass attempt with five seconds remaining to give the Philadelphia Soul a 62-61 victory over the Cleveland Gladiators Saturday night before a crowd of 16,637 at the Wachovia Spectrum.

The game-saving play preserved a comeback win for the playoff-bound Soul against a motivated Cleveland team needing a win to advance its own post-season aspirations. The loss dropped the Gladiators to 8-7 on the season.

With the victory, the Soul improved to 12-3 and maintained at least a share of the Eastern Division lead with one game remaining in the regular season. Philadelphia will go after its franchise-record 13th victory Sunday afternoon, June 22, against the New York Dragons at Nassau Coliseum on Long Island. A win over the Dragons will assure the Soul of homefield advantage in the playoffs and against the Dallas Desperados, who the Soul defeated twice this year.

Dallas beat New York on Saturday night to remain tied with the Soul at 12-3.

The Soul’s first playoff game is expected to take place at the Wachovia Complex on July 5 or 6 if there is a bye or the weekend of June 28. The Conference Championship games are set for July 12 and Arena Bowl XXII will be held on Sunday, July 27, in New Orleans.

Soul quarterback Matt D’Orazio hit wide receiver Chris Jackson for three touchdowns, including a 15-yarder with 37 seconds remaining to put the Soul ahead, 62-55. The Gladiators answered with an impressive drive culminating in a nine-yard touchdown from quarterback Raymond Philyaw to Otis Amey with just five seconds left. Instead of kicking the extra point to force overtime, the Gladiators decided to go for the victory with a two-point conversion, setting up Moten’s heroics.

The Soul jumped out to a 14-0 lead in the first three minutes with D’Orazio hitting Brent Holmes on a pair of one-play touchdown drives, the first covering 38 yards and the second 14. Cleveland closed to within six points several times during the first half and trailed at intermission, 41-35, behind two late touchdown passes from Philyaw to Amey.

With starting quarterback Tony Graziani sidelined by the concussion suffered last week in Dallas, D’Orazio was stellar once again, completing 25-of- 39 passes for 283 yards and six touchdowns. He also ran for two scores.

As he continues to chase Arena Football League all-time receiving records, Jackson registered nine catches for 104 yards. He now needs 231 yards to surpass Barry Wagner as the league’s lifetime receiving yards record. He now has 48 touchdowns, a new personal single-season record, and he is the third player in the history of the league to amass over 2,000 points.

Philyaw completed 26-of-38 passes for 319 yards and six touchdowns.

The win also avenged an earlier season loss by the Soul in Cleveland.

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