After defeating the reigning champion Washington Valor, 69-33, in the first game of their home-and-home playoff series, the Philadelphia Soul will carry a 36-point lead into the second leg Sunday afternoon at the Wells Fargo Center.
A Soul win or loss by no more than 35 points against the Valor will secure the team's sixth-ever trip to the league championship game — ArenaBowl 32 next Sunday, August 11, against the Albany Empire at the Times Union Center. It would also be the Soul's third trip to the ArenaBowl over the last four seasons.
With a win, the Soul's sixth appearance in the ArenaBowl would tie the Detroit Drive for the fourth-most in Arena Football League history, bested only by the Arizona Rattlers (10), Tampa Bay Storm (8) and Orlando Predators (7).
Last Meeting at Valor (W, 69-33): Playoffs Week 1 (Away) — Sunday, July 28, 2019
In Week 1 of the two-week, home-and-home playoff series at at Capital One Arena, the Soul came ready to play in all phases of the game, and came away with their second-largest playoff victory and the largest on the road.
The Soul offense posted its highest point total all season (69), scoring on all but one drive, along with Torez Jones' onside kick recovery touchdown. Quarterback Dan Raudabaugh and WR Darius Reynolds shined, respectively completing 17 passes for 284 yards and six touchdowns, and catching eight passes for 115 yards and a game-high three touchdown receptions.
Defensively, the Soul limited dual-threat Valor QB Arvell Nelson to just a 56.4 competition percentage, as opposed to Raudabaugh's 73.9. Soul franchise interception leader James Romain picked off Nelson three times in the win. Nelson also was sacked twice by the Soul defense and lost a fumble at the Soul’s two-yard line; he was the league leader in total offense during the regular season, but was limited to just four rushing attempts for 24 yards due to being under pressure.
While the Soul were outscored 7-6 in the opening quarter, they would outscore their opponent on each of the final three quarters: 14-0, 21-13, and 28-13. The Valor opened the second half with a touchdown, shrinking the Soul lead to just seven points. Clint Dolezel's team stuck to its game plan, however, combining a key onside kick recovery, strong offense, and defensive turnovers.
- Reynolds' strong performance came after playing linebacker for most of the season (every appearance except the season opener); he returns to his more natural position, having previously logged more than 1,200 receiving yards and two All-Arena honors while a wide receiver.
- Raudabaugh's 73.9 percent completion percentage last Sunday was his second-best completion percentage this season and his second-best in a postseason start (75.6 percent in 2015 against the Jacksonville Sharks).
- What to Watch For:
- Look for the Valor to attempt multiple onside kicks to try and make up for their 36-point aggregate deficit from last Sunday.
- On Friday, the Soul placed rookie WR BJ Bunn on the injured reserve and reactivated WR Aaron Wascha.
- The Soul defense has recorded multiple interceptions in four of their last five games. Also, since losing to the Valor in Week 7, the Soul defense has 10 sacks in the last six games, including two last Sunday.
- Reynolds (115) and fellow Soul WR Darius Prince (125) had the top-two receiving yards in the first game of the series.
- In his eight playoff games with the Soul, Reynolds is averaging 106 receiving yards and has scored 18 total touchdowns. Reynolds has scored 13 touchdowns in his seven career starts against the Valor while a wide receiver.
- Three of Prince's five 100-plus receiving yards games this season have come against the Valor; in those three games, he has tallied 340 yards and six touchdowns.
- Sixers fan favorite Mike Scott will serve as the honorary coin toss captain.
- Raudabaugh has a 42-to-5 touchdown to interceptions ratio in his seven career games against the Valor.
Soul Injury Report:
- Questionable: Jamaal Burgess, James Romain
- Probable: Brandon Cottom, Malik Forrester, Jameer Outsey
- Injured Reserve: Kyle Avaloy, BJ Bunn, Rodney Hall, Jahlil Mathis-Ellis, Jake Metz, DJ Myers, Darius Rosser, Isaiah Stephens
- Kickoff: 4 p.m.
- Watch: NBCSP+, ESPN3, ESPN app
- Listen: 97.5 The Fanatic
- Sunday, August 11, 2019: ArenaBowl 32, 8 p.m.
- Watch: TBD; Listen: TBD