Philadelphia, PA – The road to repeat continued tonight for the Philadelphia Soul (8-0) as they defeated the Cleveland Gladiators (2-7) by a score of 59-49. This is the third victory for the Soul over the Gladiators this season as they now prepare for next week’s difficult game against second place Tampa Bay.
These long-time rivals gave the crowd at the Wells Fargo Center an exciting back and forth first three quarters, before Philadelphia put the game soundly away in the 4th. Hard hits and gritty play were the order of the day as there were no shortages of personal fouls and trash talk.
Unlike their previous meeting, where the Soul had the game in hand early on, it was the Gladiators who would strike first on the opening drive of the night. Philadelphia quarterback Dan Raudabaugh responded immediately with a 34-yard pass to Shaun Kauleinamoku on the Soul’s very first play, leading to an action packed first half resulting in Cleveland going into the locker room with a 30-28 lead.
The second half came up all Soul, as touchdowns by Ryan McDaniel, Darius Reynolds (3), and a Mykel Benson run gave the soul an 18 point lead before Cleveland grabbed a last minute consolation touchdown. Dan Raudabaugh finished with 7 touchdown passes and his favorite target, Reynolds, found the end zone on 4 of those times.
In a game traditionally dictated by offense, it was the Soul defense and special teams that once again made the impact against the Gladiators. On top of converting two opponent extra point attempts, they’ve now held their opponents to under 50 points for three straight games. More impressively, for the second time in a row they’ve managed to contain the dual-threat Cleveland quarterback Arvell Nelson. Offensively the Soul looked like their usual well-oiled self. The three headed monster of Reynolds, McDaniel, and Kauleinamoku gives Raudabaugh a spoil of riches when it comes to offensive options, leaving opposing coaches with their hands full. But solid wide-outs are only as good as the man behind center, and Raudabaugh has been up to the task all season with very few exceptions. He had the occasional errant pass or throw away, but Raudabaugh’s steady arm, risk assessment, and coolness under pressure provides the Soul with a valuable asset.
The Soul will have a tough task next week as the other team in the apparent two horse AFL race, the Tampa Bay Storm, come to town. Philadelphia narrowly defeated Tampa in the Soul’s season opener in front of nearly 10,000 at Amalie Arena. Darius Reynolds received game MVP honors on that April night, and he will need to have a similar performance to help keep the undefeated season alive next weekend.
Offensive Player of the Game – Darius Reynolds PHI
Defensive Player of the Game – Beau Bell PHI
MVP of the Game – Dan Raudabaugh PHI