Philadelphia is a hard-fighting, tough, blue collar town that respects only those who work as hard as they do. For a town that has endless comeback stories and underdog triumphs, another was added on Saturday night.
The Philadelphia Soul battled the Tampa Bay Storm in a 44-40 victory to become Arena Bowl XXX Champions, making it two in a row for the franchise.
After being down 20-7 late in the second quarter, the Soul turned the game around with a touchdown before the half and another score on the first possession of the second half. The Storm answered back to take a six-point lead before the Soul scored 16 unanswered on a pair of touchdowns and a safety from Temples own Sean Daniels.
The Soul were able to wrap up the game with a victory that was not as close as the score suggested. Darius Prince, a product of Penn State-Beaver took home the MVP award after securing a pair of touchdown receptions.
I honestly thought they were joking when they told me, said Prince.
If an award were given for heart, it undoubtedly would have gone to Soul quarterback Dan Raudabaugh. Raudabaugh, with 5:39 remaining in the second quarter, threw a pick-six to give Tampa their biggest lead of the night. On the play, the quarterback injured his knee and was assisted to the sideline. By the looks of it, he was out. After just one play, Raudabaugh returned to rally the troops, overcome the largest deficit in Arena Bowl history, and toss three more touchdown passes in the win.
It was reported Sunday morning that the injury Raudabaugh sustained was in fact a torn ACL, a killshot to any football players season. Somehow, Raudabaugh fought through the pain to complete the game.
We had to fight a tough fight to get this one, said Soul head coach Clint Dolezel. We had a lot of beat up people out there. We were more beat up than we let on going into this game and a lot of guys fought through a lot of injuries and thats a big heart from [Radabaugh].
Prince, the MVP of the game, had high praise for his quarterback after the Soul raised the Foster Trophy.
Hes a trooper, man, said Prince. When he went down, you know, it all starts with the quarterback. You can have the receivers and if you aint got a quarterback in this league you arent going to be too successful. Hats off to Dan, hes a warrior. He was limping around all night after that hit he took and I love him, man. Hes an amazing quarterback. Hes limping right there, right now. Prince motioned toward his quarterback, entering the media room. Hats off to you, Dan.
Darius Reynolds, the leading receiver for the Soul in 2017 and in the game fought through an injury as well after slamming into the boards. The veteran receiver recovered a Storm onside kick attempt late in the fourth quarter that set up the game-securing touchdown for the Soul.
Sometimes you go down and its more of a mental thing, said Reynolds. Youre not really sure whats going on so you stay down longer. I got up, I finished the game. My brothers and I; they told me they need me and I needed them so we just all got on the same page.
Raudabaugh didnt see finishing the game after his injury as anything out of the ordinary.
Thats my job, said the league-leading touchdown thrower. Ive missed very little play in my entire career and I take pride in preparing like a champion and being able to play and being liable and accountable each week. I knew we werent playing well but we never lost hope or anything. Have no fear. Thats what I tell the guys in the huddle.
Raudabaugh toughed it out, limping between plays and standing tall in the pocket. He played without fear despite the gruesome injury.
Statistically speaking, Darius Prince was the right choice for MVP as he scored two touchdowns, including the first Philadelphia score of the game. However, if the choice were up to his teammates, Raudabaugh would have taken the trophy home. The quarterback led the team in what was a tale of two halves. He threw three touchdowns on that torn ACL and the Soul wouldnt have pulled out the victory without him.
Soul majority owner and former Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Ron Jaworski was in attendance with former NFL head coach Dick Vermeil, also a part of the Soul ownership group. When asked about Raudabaughs toughness, Jaworski was stunned by the performance of his quarterback.
I dont know if I could put it in words, what he did, said Jaworski. When I went in at halftime and talked to the docs, [they said] He probably should be out six to eight weeks. And Dan said Im playing. They put him on the table and bandaged him up, put a brace on him He comes on, it gets our team excited and motivated. It wasnt our A-game tonight. We know that. Sometimes you got to win with the B game. You win with character, you win with heart. Tonight was one of those games that players won with heart. They won with character. They won with perseverance.
The script for the Arena Bowl could not have fit better with the citys mindset. The Soul were beaten down, injured and had to overcome adversity after the first half of the game. The leader had an injury that would leave most football players lying motionless on the turf. Beside the meaningless Storm touchdown as time expired, the Soul outscored Tampa Bay 30-14 in the second half.
For a city starving for championships, the Soul have finished at the top in back-to-back seasons. Moreso than the citys previous championships, the story of Arena Bowl XXX was a microcosm of the city that the Soul were playing for.
Follow Brenden on Twitter @brendenp2011.
Mandatory Photo Credit: Tony Quinn/Icon Sportswire vs AP Images