TAMPA BAY – It was a banner day for the defending Arena Bowl Champions.
Seeing their first action since raising their second championship trophy in 2016, the Philadelphia Soul scored a thrilling opening day victory over the Tampa Bay Storm begin their road to repeating.
With the 56-52 victory over the Storm, the Soul overcame punch after punch from the Tampa offense to hang on for their first victory of the season
Head Coach Clint Dolezel credited the team’s grit to gut out a tough win but thought there was much left on the field.
“Tonight was not one of our strongest performances,” Dolezel said. “We need to dust off the cobwebs and correct some mistakes before we head into the rest of the season but I am happy with the win.”
While the team might have some cobwebs to dust off as a whole, their captain was nearly flawless. After a first week bye week, the Soul came in well rested and were led by reigning MVP Quarterback Dan Raudabaugh.
If Raudabaugh was the MVP last season, he certainly has made his case this year even after only one game. One of the greatest quarterbacks in Arena Football history completed 22 of 31 passes for 257 yards and six touchdowns against a stout Storm defense.
Despite his outstanding performance, Raudabaugh agreed with his coach that there were some things that needed fixing.
“We’re not a team that turns the ball over especially two straight possessions,” Raudabaugh said. “I know we’re better than that and we just have to clean it up.”
Raudabaugh did have his help however. Wide receiver Darius Reynolds had a banner day catching the ball.
To go along with five catches, Reynolds totaled 78 yards and three touchdowns. He even recovered a Storm onside kick in the fourth quarter and returned it for his final touchdown to put Philadelphia ahead 56-46 and put the game out of reach.
Philadelphia also featured two other returning starters at the receiver position that helped Reynolds get a lot of one on one matchups.
Then again, it is pretty hard to stop Ryan McDaniel and Shaun Kauleinamoku. McDaniel tallied nine catches for 87 yards a touchdown while Kauleinamoku put up 49 yards off of five catches.
In the end, it was all Reynolds and of course he was the man to seal the game for the Soul.
“Reynolds is great. He takes of his body and does a lot for us on and off the field,” Raudabaugh said. “He is a leader for us and helps take care of the young guys.”
Next week, the Soul travel out to Washington D.C where they will take on the newly formed Washington Valor.
The road to repeating is just beginning.
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