SOUL HOST BALTIMORE BRIGADE IN HOME OPENER
PITMAN: The Soul open their 2017 home schedule at the Wells Fargo Center Saturday night April 29 (7:00 p.m.) against the Baltimore Brigade just as the NFL will be ending its three-day draft extravaganza on the other end of town.
While the NFL is busting out in a very direction in popularity, the Arena Football League is doing its best to climb the mountain once again and be a relevant football league at the minor league level.
After years of decline, the league appears to have a solid strategy going into 2017.
Teams must now be owned an NBA or NHL franchise. Soul quarterback Dan Raudabaugh talked about the changes.
“It’s a crazy little game,” Raudabaugh said after practice Thursday at the Total Turf Fitness complex in Pitman, NJ. “It’s almost at a make or break situation. They’re looking for this new type of ownership. I think it’s smart to go in that direction. You eliminate a lot of overhead costs with the arenas and facilities; all that stays in house when you have that type of owners.”
There are five teams, two…Washington and Baltimore are owned by the same group. Players from teams that left the AFL have been dispersed to the five clubs that make up the current AFL rosters. And all the teams are good.
“The talent pool is big to draw from with the limited amount of roster spots,” Raudabaugh said. “We expect all five teams to come out and play good football every week. We’ve been fortunate to come out and play some good Soul football. We’re still fining our stride too. We haven’t had a real breakout game on offense. Our defense is tight like we expected. We’re led by some veterans so we’ve been able to overcome some adversity.”
The Soul edged the Tampa Bay Storm in the opener 56-52. Last week, the Soul trailed at the half 31-28 to the Washington Valor, but stormed back to win 49-31 and improve to 2-0.
The former AFL League MVP says he likes it when he hears defensive back James Romain talk about the Soul defense as a “straitjacket” defense. The Soul shut out the Valor in the second half in large part to the secondary.
“They put the straps on guys as they like to say,” Raudabaugh said with a laugh. “They’re going to be around you. Our coach (Clint Dolezel) is the best Arena coach there is. He knows the game inside out. He puts us in good spots and being an offensive-minded coach has translated into him into being a really, really, really good defensive coach too. We’re blessed to have some of the guys we have back there with James Roman, (Dwayne) Hollis and the rest of the guys. They cover guys like they’re wrapped up in a straitjacket. It makes it tough for opposing offenses to score and even move the ball. It’s advantageous for our offense as well.”
The quarterback says the defense is just as tough on him.
“They bring that mentality to practice every day as well too,” Raudabaugh said. “We practice really hard out here. Every practice is like a game. Going against that type of competition every day too is only going to make us better. We give it to them as well at practice. We’ve got plenty of swagger too. We’ve got (Darius) ‘Money’ Reynolds, Ryan (McDaniel), SK (Shaun Kauleinamoku), Chris (Duvalt). We mix it up; we match up well with everybody. “
Raudabaugh talked about facing the Brigade.
“They’ve got a really good defense,” Raudabaugh said. They’ve got a really good pass rush, they’re secondary is very talented. They are well coached by head coach Coach Omarr Smith, plus assistants Walt Housman, Virgil Gray, James Roe and Scott Bailey and they will have a good plan. It’s all about us going out and executing. “
NOTES: The game will be broadcast live on CBS Sports Network and 97.5 The Fanatic. Prior to kickoff, there will be a championship celebration, honoring the 2016 ArenaBowl Championship team, beginning at 6:30 p.m. on the field. The 2017 team will also be introduced and fans will get to watch as the championship banner is raised in the Wells Fargo Center.
There will be appearance by Soul Owner, former Philadelphia Eagle and ESPN analyst, RON JAWORSKI; Soul Owner and former New Orleans Saint, MARQUES COLSTON; Soul Owner and current New Orleans Saint, JAHRI EVANS; Soul Ownership Group; former Philadelphia Eagle, DONOVAN MCNABB; Super Bowl XLVII MVP and Raven’s Quarterback, JOE FLACCO; head coach CLINT DOLEZEL; Soul General Manager PHIL BOGLE; assistant coach BERNIE NOWOTARSKI; 2017 Soulmates, 2016 ArenaBowl Championship Philadelphia Soul team and 2017 Philadelphia Soul Players.
Follow Al Thompson on Twitter @thompsoniii