This afternoon, the three-time Arena Football League champion Philadelphia Soul will kick off its 2019 season opposite league newcomer Atlantic City Blackjacks at the Wells Fargo Center.
The Soul are coming off a disappointing finish to their 2018 season, after winning back-to-back championships in the two seasons prior. They begin their quest for a fourth championship on Saturday — the first time opening the season at home since their first championship season in 2008.
“One thing that hasn’t changed for the Philadelphia Soul: Our goal is to be the world champions,” said Soul owner Ron Jaworski. “We were not last year. Our goal is to be the world champions this year ... It’s all about winning. And we know where the greatest fans in the world are…right here in
Among a slew of six rookies on the 2019 Soul roster, veterans that played key roles during the team's recent championship run also make up the 24-man set, including quarterback and former league MVP Dan Raudabaugh and wide receiver Darius Reynolds.
Last season's Defensive Back of the Year James Romain, and First Team All-Arena wideout Darius Prince — who recently played in the now-defunct AAF — also have returned. In addition to Prince and Romain (first-team), the Soul have five other returning players who were named to All-Arena teams last season: DE Jake Metz on the first-team, along with WR Aaron Wascha, C Phillip-Keith Manley, OL Neal Tivis, and DB Dwayne Hollis on the second-team. Six defensive players from last season have also returned, including Romain and Hollis.
Raudabaugh said it is the team's "job" and "mission" to win another championship, and that "anything else is unacceptable." “We’ve got the right guys. The right culture is growing here in Philly,” he said.
- The Soul look for their fifth straight season opener victory; they are 10-3 all-time to open the season.
- The Blackjacks will play their first-ever game, coached by two-time AFL Coach of the Year Ron James. The last time James coached an AFL game was against Clint Dolezel and the Soul in ArenaBowl XXX, when his Tampa Bay Storm fell 44-40. James has lost six straight games to the Soul as head coach.
- With 88 coaching wins, Dolezel needs six more to pass current Washington Redskins coach Jay Gruden for the seventh most in AFL history. Dolezel is 88-40 all-time (including playoffs), 77-32 with Philadelphia.
- Raudabaugh will begin his eighth season with the Soul, and the 10th season of his career; he is coming off an injury-plagued 2018 season where he missed five games, albeit throwing 36 touchdowns, just six interceptions, and a career-high 69.4 pass completion percentage.
- Prince's return from the AAF is much welcomed by the Soul; the 2017 ArenaBowl MVP caught a team-high and league second-best 24 touchdowns in 2018 spanning 89 overall receptions and 1,076 receiving yards.
- Romain (2013-present) needs just one more interception to set the Soul franchise record. He is currently tied with Eddie Moten (2005-08) with 32.
- Last season, Soul wide receivers Prince, Reynolds, and Wascha combined for 2,498 receiving yards and 59 touchdowns (58 receiving, 1 rushing). Reynolds (2016-present) needs just five more receiving touchdowns to reach 91 and move into second place in franchise history, trailing only Tiger Jones (117, 2012-14).
- The Soul and Blackjacks faced off in a joint scrimmage exactly two weeks ago at Virtua/Total Turf Experience in Pitman, New Jersey, welcoming the new Atlantic City franchise to its first action against a league opponent. Total Turf is home to the Soul practice facility this season.
Things get heated between the Soul and Blackjacks ahead of their scrimmage. They’re ready for the season! pic.twitter.com/KJwT86yakh— Matt Rappa (@mattrappasports) April 13, 2019
- Kickoff: 3:30 p.m.
- TV: NBCSP+
- Radio: 97.5 The Fanatic
- Friday, May 3, 2019: at Baltimore Brigade, 7 p.m.
- TV: NBCSP+; Radio: 97.5 The Fanatic