PHILADELPHIA – The men in gray and blue still remain supreme.
As the Soul (9-0) hosted Tampa Bay (7-2), it was a battle for first place in the Arena Football League. With a 62-41 win, the Soul, who already have clinched a playoff berth, are now guaranteed a home playoff game in their conquest to win back to back Arena Bowl titles.
In what was a back and forth affair, the Soul turned on the Jets and pulled away in the second half as they have done so brilliantly all season.
Head Coach Clint Dolezel said afterwards that this was the toughest the team has played all season.
“Going into this game, we knew Tampa Bay was going to be a tough opponent,” Dolezel said. “I’m very proud of how the guys played. They held their own and kept the lead. It’s a great feeling to be undefeated at this point in the season.”
With the top offense in the league, the Soul were led by more outstanding performances by quarterback Dan Raudabaugh and wide receiver Darius “Money” Reynolds. Reynolds led the receivers with six receptions for 115 yards and five touchdowns.
Raudabaugh was quick to praise his go to man while also giving praise to the whole core which included Ryan McDaniel and Shaun Kauleinamoku. McDaniel added six catches for 76 yards.
“Darius is a great player and everyone has seen that,” Raudabaugh said. “He’s an imposing figure and he might be the fastest guy in the league too. All of our guys are total packages. If he didn’t have five touchdowns tonight, I’m sure Ryan or S.K. Would have as well. We have a very unselfish group.”
“There’s nothing else I can say aside from that guy gets it done,” Dolezel said. “If you try playing him man to man, you’re going to pay for it.”
The Storm had their own offensive super star as well. Wide receiver Joe Hills led the way with 12 receptions for 161 yards and four touchdowns.
The final touchdown of the night to put a seal on the game was scored by fullback Mykel Benson. Benson became only the fifth fullback in AFL history to score 100 for his career.
“He’s a great teammate,”Raudabaugh said. “Sometimes we are throwing eight touchdowns and he doesn’t get a chance but he’s a team player. He deserves it.”
The Soul will remain home next week as they will take on rival Cleveland once again. The Soul, in three meetings with the Gladiators (3-7) have won all three this season by a combined 30 points.
“It’s rivalry week,” Raudabaugh said. “We got Cleveland again. They don’t like us and we don’t like them. We are going to prepare like it’s a championship game every week.”