Coming off of a 7-5 regular season finish and home-and-home playoff series sweep of the defending-Arena Football League-champion Washington Valor, the Philadelphia Soul will play for their fourth championship in franchise history Sunday evening opposite the top-seeded Albany Empire in ArenaBowl 32 at the Times Union Center. Sunday's championship game mark's the Soul's sixth-ever ArenaBowl appearance; they are looking for their fourth title in franchise history and their third in the last four seasons, having won in 2016 and 2017, along with 2008.
Largely helping the Soul advance to the ArenaBowl was their defense containing Valor dual-threat QB and Second Team All-Arena selection, Arvell Nelson, who led the AFL in total offense this season. Over the two-game series, Nelson threw five interceptions and was sacked seven times. Recently assigned Soul DL Malik Forrester has accounted for an AFL-best 4.5 sacks so far this postseason, including 3 in last Sunday's championship clincher.
Now, the Soul defense will look to contain Empire QB and three-time MVP Tommy Grady, who has been sacked just once this season. That sack came via Soul lineman Sean Daniels in the team’s Week 10 win against the Empire. In the second half of that game, Grady uncharacteristically completed just 8 of 18 passes and threw two picks. Overall this season, Grady led the AFL in completion percentage, passing yards, and touchdowns.
"This is a championship organization with championship coaches and championship players. That's what it's about. Anything less is unacceptable. We're excited for this oppportunity." pic.twitter.com/ze1AesDtZ0
— Matt Rappa (@mattrappasports) August 11, 2019
The Soul have 12 players with previous ArenaBowl experience, including veteran QB Dan Raudabaugh.
- Over his four appearances, Raudabaugh ranks second in ArenaBowl history in passing yards (1,101, 275.3 per game) and touchdowns (21, 5.25 per game), trailing only QB Nick Davila (1,437 passing yards, 35 touchdowns).
- Raudabaugh (97) needs just 14 completions to break Davila’s ArenaBowl record (110).
- In his last appearance (2017), Raudabaugh threw four touchdowns, three being to current teammates Darius Prince (2) and Darius Reynolds (1). James Romain and Dwayne Hollis each had an interception in the victory.
ArenaBowl 32 will feature 12 of the league's 18 First Team All-Arena selections (9 from Empire and 3 from Soul – Romain, Prince and Neal Tivis).
- Both the Soul (43-point margin) and Empire (76-point margin) swept their playoff series to advance to the ArenaBowl.
- The Soul are just the fifth team in AFL history to reach six ArenaBowls; they join the Arizona Rattlers (10), Tampa Bay Storm (8), Orlando Predators (7), and Detroit Drive (6), all of whom are currently defunct. They will look to become just the fifth team in AFL history to win at least four titles.
- The Soul are 1-2 against the Empire this season.
- Week 3 (home): Empire win, 57-48, behind Grady’s seven touchdowns.
- Week 10 (home): Soul win, 54-43, behind the team's effective pass rush.
- Regular Season Finale (away): Albany win, 72-27, albeit the game featuring both teams’ backup QBs for much of the game.
- Over their last seven games, the Soul defense has recorded 15 sacks and 13 interceptions, as opposed to just four sacks and eight interceptions over their first seven games. The team recorded a season-high five sacks alone in last Sunday's win over the Valor.
- The 2019 Wide Receiver of the Year Malachi Jones, will be the top concern for Soul DB James Romain, the 2019 Defensive Back of the Year. Jones led the AFL this season in catches and receiving yards, and in his three games against the Soul, he tallied 382 yards and six touchdowns.
- Jones will be "fresh," as he did not play in the Empire's second leg of their home-and-home series against the Baltimore Brigade.
- The Empire allowed just 47 combined points over its two playoff games against the Brigade.
- In Raudabaugh's only game at the Times Union Center this year, he threw 12-for-17 for 143 yards and three scores in one half of action.
- Raudabaugh will make his fourth ArenaBowl appearances as the Soul quarterback.
- Four current Empire players previously played for the Soul: FB Mykel Benson, LB Jeramie Richardson, DL Calvin Fance, and K Adrian Trevino. Benson, Richardson, and Trevino won a title with Philadelphia. Conversely, current Soul WR Jordan Williams and K Kenny Spencer played for the Empire last season.
Soul Injury Report:
- Kickoff: 8 p.m.
- Watch: ESPN2
- Listen: 97.5 The Fanatic