Friday, April 13, 2012

Soul battle Sabercats

PHILADELPHIA (April 13, 2012) – Tomorrow, the nation’s two most effective offenses will compete what could possibly be a preview of the Arena Bowl XXV.  The San Jose SaberCats (3-1) will travel to the City of Brotherly Love for the first time in AFL history to take on the Philadelphia Soul (3-1) at the Wells Fargo Center.

“Saturday will be a great match-up between two solid teams that both have a good chance at the playoffs,” said Soul head coach Doug Plank. “It will be a very good game. There is a lot of pride on both sides.”

In just four games, the Soul have repeatedly broken team records, positioning themselves as the best offensive team in the League.  Scoring 92 points against the Georgia Force, the highest amount of points scored in team history and second highest in the history of Arena Football, the Soul now lead the League in all aspects of offensive scoring with 301 points, 43 touchdowns, 39 extra points and one two-point conversion.  They also lead the League in rushing with 182 yards and 43 attempts for eight touchdowns.

San Jose is No. 2 behind the Soul in offensive scoring with 40 touchdowns, 25 extra points and five successful two-point conversions.  The SaberCats are No. 5 in the League in rushing with 109 yards and 31 attempts for 3.5 touchdowns.  They are No. 3 in pass offense completing 112-of-172 passes for 1263 yards, 27 touchdowns and only three interceptions.

The meeting of these two chart-topping teams will place the League’s best players face-to-face in an exciting, high-performance battle.

“San Jose is an All-Star team. They have excellent athletes on both offense and defense,” Plank said. “But we also have a fair share of players that have been recognized by the league for outstanding performance this season and throughout their careers.”

The No. 1 starting quarterback in the League, Dan Raudabaugh, has completed 78-of-108 passes for 1054 yards, including 26 touchdowns and only three interceptions.  In last week’s 92-42 win over the Georgia Force, he completed 16-of-20 passes for 272 yards, six touchdowns and no interceptions.  He currently has an efficiency rating of 130.9.
SaberCats’ quarterback Mark Grieb is No. 1 in the League in completions (108), No. 1 in passing touchdowns (27t), No. 3 in the League in passing average per game (315.5 yards) and No. 3 in total offense (1289 yards).  He has completed 108-of-169 passes for 1262 yards, including 27 touchdowns and only three interceptions.

Philadelphia’s fullback Derrick Ross is No. 1 in the League in rushing and is responsible for 138 of the Soul’s league-high 182 rushing yards.  In last week’s game against the Force, Ross set franchise single-game records.  His 13 carries for 74 yards place him at No. 1 in Soul history for both rushing attempts in a single game and rushing yards in a single game.  Ross’ three touchdowns on the ground put him in a three-way tie for No. 3 in Soul History.  If he continues at this pace, by the end of regular season he would break the AFL record for yards rushing in a single season, which he set last year at 622 with the Dallas Vigilantes.

Wide receiver Jeff Hughley is No. 1 in the League in all-purpose yards (850) averaging 212.5 yards per game. He is also No. 1 in kick returns (29), kick return yards (630) and kick return touchdowns (2t).  Closely following is SaberCat defensive back Ruschard Dodd-Masters, who is No. 2 in the League in kick returns (27) and No. 3 in kick return yards (497).

Soul wide receiver Tiger Jones is No. 3 in the League for receiving yards per game with an average of 127.2 yards and a total of 509 yards on 31 catches for nine touchdowns.  He is also No. 1 for yards per catch (16.4). While SaberCats’ WR Ben Nelson ranks No. 5 in receiving yards per game (120.2), No. 5 in receiving yards this season (481) and No. 4 in receiving touchdowns (12t).  He is No. 4 in the AFL in scoring with 12 touchdowns for 74 points, averaging 18.5 points per game.

Defensive back Rayshawn Kizer and National Guard MVP Joe Goosby lead the Soul defensively.  Kizer is No. 1 in AFL history for most interceptions during a rookie season (12), just one interception away from a four-way tie for most interceptions in any season (13).  With two interceptions and four break-ups this season, Kizer is ranked No. 4 in passes defended.  Goosby is coming off a great game against Georgia with two interception return touchdowns, 3.5 total tackles and a forced fumble at the goal line that prevented a score.SaberCats’ defensive back Vince Hill is also a defensive threat, ranking No. 3 in the AFL in tackles (30.5), averaging 7.6 per game.

The SaberCats are ranked No. 2 in sacks (10), while the Soul are ranked No. 3 in sacks against (2).  DL Joe Sacks leads the SaberCats in sacks (4.0) and placing him at No. 4 in the League.

“San Jose has always been the pinnacle of teams.  They are who you aspire to be in terms of success and achievements.  They win games and they are highly competitive but they are also very respectful of their opponents,” Plank said.  “This game is important for us.  It’s important for our confidence.  We’re taking every game one step at a time and learning more each week.”

The last time the two teams faced each other was in 2011, their first reunion since Philadelphia defeated the SaberCats, 59-56, winning the AFL title at Arena Bowl XXII in 2008.  In 2011, the SaberCats defeated the Soul, 68-61, retaking the series lead (3-2).  A Philadelphia win on Saturday would tie the series.

By Kiki Miller
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