Friday, August 03, 2012

Soul slay Sharks, reach ArenaBowl XXV


By John McMullen
jmcmullen@phanaticmag.com

PHILADELPHIA (The Phanatic Magazine) - Bourbon Street beckons.

Two years after rebooting, the Philadelphia Soul are headed back to the ArenaBowl after routing the reigning AFL champion Jacksonville Sharks, 89-34, in the American Conference Championship Game at Wells Fargo Center.

Larry Brackins, the only remaining member of the Soul from the 2008 championship team, scored five first half touchdowns and eight overall to help Philadelphia reach its second ArenaBowl in five years.

All-Arena fullback Derrick Ross added two scores on the ground and quarterback Dan Raudabaugh completed 15-of-21 passes for 196 yards and three TDs.

The Soul defense added to the scoring column on an interception return for a TD by LaRico Stevenson and a safety by Bryan Robinson.

The 89 points were a franchise playoff record for Philadelphia topping the previous high of 70 in 2008.

“The guys knew what was on the line tonight, and they played like it,” said Soul head coach Doug Plank.  “I know we’re all excited for New Orleans.  This is what we’ve been working for all season.”

Jeron Harvey was the star for the Sharks, catching nine balls for 141 yards and three TDs. Quarterback Bernard Morris finished 17-of-29 for 199 yards with three scores and three interceptions.

Soul defensive end Justin Warren made the play that turned things Philadelphia's way early in the first quarter.

The teams had traded touchdowns to start the contest with the Soul holding a 7-6 edge thanks to a missed PAT by Jacksonville kicker Marco Capozzoli. With the Sharks driving, Warren stripped Jacksonville fullback Rendrick Taylor and the fumble was recovered by Stevenson. Ross eventually cashed in the turnover with a 5-yard TD run and Philadelphia took a 14 -6 advantage
into the second quarter.

The wheels fell off the Jacksonville offense from there. Four straight stops by the Soul defense, which included two interceptions by Rayshaun Kizer and a fumble recovery by Melik Brown, resulted in three more Brackins TDs as well as a Fabrizio Scaccia field goal, giving the Soul a 38-6 cushion before the Sharks finally stopped the bleeding.

Philadelphia led by a 45-12 margin at intermission and the rest of the contest served as nothing more than a coronation for the Soul, who beat Jacksonville for the third time this season and improved to a gaudy 17-3 overall. Doug Plank's club also finished a perfect 10-0 against teams from the Southern Division.

The Soul will face the National Conference champion, which is set to be decided Saturday when Arizona hosts Utah, in ArenaBowl XXV on Aug. 10 in New Orleans.

SOUL-ful Stuff:

*Attendance was 12,332, many of them masquerading as empty seats. My guess was about 8,000 in the building.

*The Soul also beat Jacksonville in Philly, 56-38, on May 12 and in Jacksonville, 62-27, just over a month later.

*Former Temple and Eagles training camp quarterback Adam DiMichele, the backup to Raudabaugh, came on the finish things late.

*Former Eagles DT Hollis Thomas was in attendance.

*Jacksonville center Brant Clouser played his college ball at Villanova while backup defensive lineman Andre Caroll is a Delaware State product.

*Sharks WR/DB Terrance Smith spent time with the Green Bay Packers during the 2010 season as did the Soul's Kent Richardson.

*Soul WR/KR Jeff Hughley played on the Sharks last season when they won ArenaBowl XXIV.
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