Philly Sports Live

Voodoo Tattoo’d; Soul Advance to American Conference Championship

PHILADELPHIA (July 28,2012)-The Eastern Division Champions Philadelphia Soul defeated the New Orleans Voodoo in the first round of the Arena Football League Playoffs Saturday Night 66-53 in front of 6,976  fans. “The defense and special teams stepped up. Our offense was a little bit slow  but we made it happpen,” said receiver Donovan Morgan who led the team with 3 touchdowns on 80 reception yards. “The fans were great. They made a lot of noise and which helped us out.”

Before Saturdays match-up, first year Soul  Head Coach Doug Plank gathered the guys and spoke about how far the team has made it and referred to his playing days with the Chicago Bears.

Photo Credit: AP

When I first arrived here. It was important to tell the team where they are going or where you want them to go. In 1981 I played for the Chicago Bears, a team that went 6-10. In 1982 a coach by the name of Mike Ditka walked in for one reason and one reason only, to take that team to the Superbowl and win it.Players were laughing chewing gum with hats on when Ditka arrived. Ditka yelled, “Get your hats off I want your attention. That’s the Good News. The Bad News is not all of you will be here because you will not be willing to sacrifice and put in the work that it takes. Everyone understood there was a new sheriff in town. I found it ironic that was 1982 and 3 years later, the Bears won the Superbowl. I walked in here and pictured the Foster trophy. I told the guys why would we play if were not playing for a championship. I looked at the Soul Players and asked did they enjoy that last year. I asked Jeff Hughley if he enjoyed winning a championship in 08. He said, yes coach. Why cant we all enjoy that and work towards the end. This is a tight group of people they like each other and like to work for each other”

Entering Saturday’s playoff game, the Philadelphia Soul’s rushing defense was dead last in the AFL. Their defense knew they had a full plate coming at them with Voodoo’s rushing touchdown leader Joe Alajajian coming to town with 10 rushing touchdowns. With all the hype circulating the Soul defense, it was the offense that struggled early on.

The Soul offense came out flat on their first possession going four and out on their possession. Voodoo quarterback Kurt Rocco answered to the Souls turnover with a 1 yard quarterback sneak. The soul responded quickly on their next possession as QB Dan Raudabaugh connected to receiver Larry Brackins for a 8 yard touchdown which was one of two on the day. With just 11 seconds left in the first quarter, Voodoo closed out the quarter with a 2 yard touchdown reception caught by Josh Bush (which was 1 of 5 td’s on the night) leading the Soul 14-7.

Entering the 2nd quarter, the Soul knew they had to come out firing in which they did as Raudabaugh connected to wide out Jeff

Photo Credit: AP

Hughley for one of his two touchdowns on the evening. Hughley led the Soul with 8 receptions on the night. The Voodoo’s offense looked to retaliate quickly, but the Soul Defense and DB Rayshaun Kizer had other plans in mind. Kizer captured his first of two picks off  Roccoo which led to Brackins second touchdown of the night.

Philadelphia’s Head Coach Doug Plank and Kicker Remy Hamilton caught the Voodoo offguard as they managed to kick and recover an unexpected onside kick which was the turning point in Saturday’s football game. After the onside kick Philadelphia managed to possess and capitalize off of a 25 yard Morgan touchdown. The Soul thought they were sneaky enough to try the onside kick again, but the Voodoo read it perfectly and captured the ball on the Soul 10 yd line. In just a blink of an eye the New Orleans benefited from Philadelphia’s costly mistake. Kurt Rocco found his receiver Josh Bush in stride for his second touchdown of the night.

Philadelphia tried to put New Orleans away early on, but the Voodoo had an answer to everything. Followed by a safety caused by safety Marlon Favorite, the Voodoo once again capitalized with a 32-yard touchdown reception by Quory Payne which gave the Voodoo the lead 30-28. Soul QB Dan Raudabaugh said, “that safety was a bad swing of momentum. I need to get rid of that ball.” As time expired in the half, Remy Hamilton nailed a 34-yard field goal which gave Philadelphia the lead 31-30 heading into the half.

Third-quarter scoring unfolded with a 29-yard field goal by Voodoo Kicker Gary Cismesia.  Morgan scored his third touchdown of the night on a 29-yard touchdown reception and New Orleans responded with a 20-yard touchdown reception by Bush. Fullback Derrick Ross ended the third-quarter scoring with a 1-yard rushing touchdown giving Philadelphia the advantage 44-39 entering the final quarter.

The two teams took turns scoring in the fourth quarter with the Soul coming up with one more touchdown than the VooDoo. The Voodoo wouldn’t leave Philadelphia alone as they kept putting up a fight, literally this time. With one minute remaining in regulation, the Soul were cruising down the field to put the finishing touches on the game. In a game of many irrelevant foolish penalties, Voodoo LB Alvin Ray Jackson got ejected for an unsportsmanlike after making contact with an official.

With New Orleans beginning to acknowledge defeat, tempers began to flare from there. Before the Soul could even snap the ball for the next play, more pushing and shoving occurred as well as another ejection for the Voodoo. Finally, once play resumed, Soul RB Derrick Ross sealed the deal with a 1-yard run for Philadelphia’s final touchdown. After the game RB Derrick Ross said, ” You Got to give credit to the Voodoo. They came in and did what they had to do but we just kept fighting and fighting. It happened to go our way and it just feels good to win.”

With the Soul obtaining home field advantage throughout the playoffs, the American Conference will be coming through Philadelphia and the electrifying Wells Fargo Center. After the game, Soul CEO and Majority Owner Ron Jaworski, said its pivotal:

 Its tremendous. Home field advantage is critical. The crowd was fired up and were a huge factor in the game. They were intimidating to the New Orleans Voodoo late in the game. They had some mistakes late in the game that played in our favor. Our soul fans are always top notch.

Jaws also believes that this group of the guys are very similar to the group of players who brought the AFL Championship to Philadelphia in 2008.

I love these guys. These guys are a great  group of character guys, not just football guys. Statrting off From Day 1 our goal was to be AFL champions. We are heading in that direction and we know we have a tough game next friday against jacksonville. We feel good were we are at. Hopefully we can accomplish our goal just like we did in 2008.

Photo Credit: AP

For receivers Larry Brackins and Jeff Hughley, this is nothing new as they were huge assets for the 2008 Championship team lead by QB Tony Graziani. But for QB Dan Raudabaugh, he wants to lead his team just the way Graziani did:

We have played good at home and we are looking for another challenge next week. We played Jacksonville twice so we have an idea what they are going to do but, its the playoffs anything can happen, You dont know what to expect. You have to prepare for anything. We will have a good week of practice. We will come out firing and hopefully start where we left off. The team needs to know that we won’t win the Arena Bowl next week. We may win the conference but we cant let that be a distraction to our ultimate goal. One game at a time, One play at a time.

After the game, Philadelphia Soul Head Coach Doug Plank spoke about the game and love for his team:

“We didn’t play our best game. I am not making excuses but we didnt play our best game. We need to be very cautious against Jacksonville.” Coach Plank also wanted to thank all Soul fans who came out to support. ” Win or Lose, The Fans Fans In Philadelphia have been great. Its time for Philadelphia to enjoy another championship.”

The first place Philadelphia Soul will host the second place. Jacksonville Sharks Friday, August 3rd@ 8:00 p.m. at the Wells Fargo Center.  The Soul defeated the Sharks twice during the rauglar season and outscored Jacksonville 118-75. The American Conference Championship game will be  televised on the NFL Network and will be broadcasted by David Baumann and Anthony Herron.