Al Thompson

The Soul have struggled this year, mostly on the road. They have had to start the season with a ridiculous schedule that put the Soul on the road for their first four games including back-to-back west coast trips.

Their record reflected all that travel with a 1-3 record.

In the past, the Soul could play a game or two at the beginning of the season at the Spectrum while the Sixers and Flyers finished their regular seasons across the parking lot.

But a wrecking ball took that option away, and Ron Jaworski’s team is left to the mercy of the Wells Fargo Center schedule makers.

“I think we didn’t nearly play as well as we’d like to on our first road trip,” Soul quarterback Dan Raudabaugh said recently. “I think we left two wins out there. But when we got home, our fans support here in Philly, we really rally around that. We’ve got it going, we’ve got to keep getting better.”

Before they could get into a groove, The Soul were dealt another blow. Brennen Carvalho, their standout center was hurt in April and is out indefinitely, maybe for the year.

Brennen Carvalho, our center, who I would argue is the best player in the entire Arena Football League, which is hard to say with him being the center,” Raudabaugh said. “He’s had a miraculous impact on how successful we’ve been the last few year offensively, losing him was tough. But we’ve had Jason Holman step in at center, he’s a veteran on both sides of the ball. He’s a true Iron Man over the past few years. He done a good job of stepping and being a leader for us.

Raudabaugh said his massive rookie tackles have played well despite having to replace Carvalho.

“Our two rookies out there Adam (Smith) and Wayne (Tribue), They’ve played 10 games out there, it’s hard to consider them rookies,” Raudabaugh said. “They’re fiery guys, they’re really athletic for as big as they are…and they’re mean. That’s what you look for in linemen. And you have to throw Derrick (Ross) in the mix there too. He’s a blocking fullback. He’s not only the the best running fullback, but you could argue he is the best blocking fullback too. These guys only make my job easier.”

Eagles fans surely remember at the end of the 2009 season when injuries to the interior line contributed to back-to-back losses to the Dallas Cowboys in the season finale (0-24) and Wild Card playoff game (14-34) ruining an 11-4 start.

Soul head coach Clint Dolezel is dealing with a similar challenge.

“Losing Carvalho was a big blow,” Dolezel said. “It’s almost as bad as losing your quarterback to be honest with you. From the quarterback’s standpoint, just when you are getting snaps, you’re now having to think about…’am I going to get this snap on my left or right.’ So you’re not concentrating on reading, it is a tough deal.

“For Holman to come in and and step in we’ve won four of five games he’s started,” Dolezel continued. “The other ones we didn’t win weren’t his fault. The center is basically the quarterback of the offensive line. Losing Brennen and Holman stepping in and being able to play with those rookies Tribue and Smith, those two are going to be around for a long time or as long as they want to be around. But for Holman, a defensive tackle by trade, and a bit of a journeyman…playing center, he’s our utility guy who can do it all. If we do find a center by the end of the season or if Carvalho comes back, he’ll go back to his role that is filling every position out there. He’s invaluable.”

On the defensive side of the ball the Soul lost defensive lineman Morkeith Brown to a pectoral muscle injury and he might be out for the season.

Still the Soul certainly have positives to draw on. On major positive is Raudabaugh. The veteran, now in his fifth AFL season, is right now one of the best quarterbacks in the AFL.

He left the field with field with 2:23 left in the fourth quarter against The Cleveland Gladiators last week, handing his defense and special teams a 17-point lead.

Even in the lightning-fast pace of the AFL, that should have been enough for a two-time defending conference champion.

But the Soul surrendered two on-side kicks, Raudabaugh and the offense never got back on the field and Soul lost a gut-wrenching 54-52 verdict to the Gladiators to drop to 5-5.

“It’s a tough way to lose,” said Dolezel after the game. “We were able to take advantage of the opportunities early, but you need to do that for all four quarters. We didn’t get it done in the fourth quarter tonight and it cost us.”

Dolezel talked about Raudabaugh’s progress as a professional quarterback.

“I’ve been with Dan for four years now,” Dolezel said. “He took to the game really fast that first year. He progressed more that year than more than most guys do in four or five years. Since then it’s been a slow process because he learned so much that first year, and was already there. He has added to his repertoire every game, every season. Those type things…where to put the ball, putting the guys in the right place…he has all the throws. But there is more to playing quarterback than just throwing the football. He knows every bodies responsibility.”

Another positive is the Soul are still 5-2 over their last seven game and the roster is solid. The lineup filled with players who have impressive resumes with some level of NFL experience including WR Tiger Jones, FB Derrick Ross, DB Shauna Sizer, K Carlos Martinez, DL Bryan Robinson, OL Wayne Tribe and OL Adam Smith and Brown.

“We have guys all over the field who have had NFL experience,” Raudabaugh said. “Whether is making a roster or invited to a camp. That only builds confidence in their own ability and when you throw them all together out there on the field, you see how well we can play together.”

Raudabaugh said the Arena Football League and the Soul offer a great way to keep the dream alive.

“[Coming to the Soul] builds inspiration and brings the joy back to playing football sometimes,” Raudabaugh said. “Getting cut from a league like that can be devastating to some guys. But we have a great family atmosphere here and we keep working, we work together and we can make great things happen.”

Raudabaugh, who played his college ball with Miami (Ohio), said he will take his roster against anyone. The goal is to get back to the ArenaBowl and another shot at the Arizona Rattlers who the Soul have never beaten. The streak stands at six games including the season-opening 62-55 loss in overtime.

“They’ve got a great team, a great program there, they’ve been really hot these last few years,” Raudabaugh said. “I don’t want to take any credit away from our guys. I thought in the first game this year we had them dead in the water. We didn’t execute there at the end. We would like to have scored with 12 seconds or less left and leave them with just one or two plays on offense.

“We executed in that we did score,” he continued. “But we scored with 15 more seconds more that what we would have liked too. And in this game, especially a team like Arizona, that can be too much time and it led to them scoring again. “But hey I’ll take my guys up against anybody, anytime, anywhere. We can play them in the parking lot right now if they wanted. You can say there is a little monkey on our back, not getting over that hump yet. But we look forward to working hard this year and getting better and have the opportunity to play them again later this season which eventually be the ArenaBowl. We’re not going to count our chickens before our eggs hatch. We have this week to get ready for but if we ever get the chance to play them again, it’ll be a battle.”

Email Al Thompson at the.magazine2@footballstories.com.






31 May 14 - Arena Football League, College football, Football, Football Training, High School Football, Home Show, MHP, NFL - Al Thompson - No Comments

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