Both teams clashing on Friday walked into this game undefeated for the 2019 regular season. The Baltimore Brigade defeated the Washington Valor in week one and the Philadelphia Soul defeated the newest addition to the Arena Football League, the Atlantic City Blackjacks. However, this week two contest was nothing short of a rivalry game for the Soul. Going into Friday’s game against the Brigade, the Soul had lost three straight road games against Baltimore and only secured one win all-time at the Royal Farms Arena. The trend here is that the Brigade feeds off of the home field advantage against the Soul, but Philadelphia is ready to break that cycle. With both teams having week one momentum to their name, this game was one to separate the followers and leaders in the standings.
The last time the Philadelphia Soul faced off against the Baltimore Brigade, it was during the 2018 playoffs where they lost both games of their first-round match. Last week, the standout Soul defense played very well against the Atlantic City Blackjacks when James Romain had two interceptions for touchdowns. Joining him in the secondary this week, coming off a one-game suspension, was Dwayne Hollis. Romain made it clear that the Soul “don’t like Baltimore.”
Soul head coach, Clint Dolezel, added: “we’re certainly motivated after last season.” That playoff loss to the Brigade in 2018 left a sour taste in the mouth the Soul players. Brigade head coach, Omarr Smith, acknowledged that “Philadelphia is always a challenge” and “they are a very well coached, talented, and disciplined team.” A big game feel was at hand on Friday night and it could be a preview of the AFL playoffs, akin to last year’s postseason.
Analysis; Philadelphia Soul at Baltimore Brigade: Week 2
The first quarter opened with the Baltimore Brigade starting with possession. The opening drive for the Brigade would go for thirty-one yards, ending in a seven yard touchdown pass from Shane Boyd to Joe Hills. The Philadelphia Soul special teams would come up big, early in the first quarter, blocking Brandon Brown’s extra point. The Soul would get the ball on the next possession and march forty-two yards down field and finish the drive with an eight-yard touchdown pass from Dan Raudabaugh to Darius Prince. However, the Brigade would mirror the Soul’s special teams and block Kenny Spencer’s extra point attempt. The game was tied at the end of the first quarter, 6-6.
Opening in the second quarter, the Baltimore Brigade had possession once again, but ultimately would turn the ball over on downs. The Philadelphia Soul defense rose to the occasion and the offense capitalized, scoring on a forty-six-yard drive, finishing with a Dan Raudabaugh touchdown pass to Aaron Wascha for twelve yards. This time, Kenny Spencer would miss the extra point. The Soul special teams tried to get back on track in a different way, succeeding with an onside kick to take possession back. However, the Brigade would recover a fumble by Adrian Ferns, forced by Joe Powell. The Brigade would move the ball thirty-three yards and score on a nineteen-yard pass from Shane Boyd to Brandon Thompkins. With the conundrum of extra point kicking so far in this game, the Brigade would try something new and convert a two-point conversion rush from Rory Nixon. The Brigade would lead going into halftime, 14-12.
Starting the second half, the Philadelphia Soul would begin with possession. On a single play, the Soul would score on a thirty-nine yard touchdown pass from Dan Raudabaugh to Darius Prince. The Soul would take a page from the Baltimore Brigade and go for a two-point conversion, converting on a BJ Bunn rush. Not to give up momentum, the Brigade would answer back quickly on a two-play drive, scoring on a forty-three yard pass from Shane Boyd to Milton Williams. The first extra point conversion would come off of the foot of Brandon Brown in the third quarter of this game. As the momentum needle seemed to sway back and forth, the Soul would score again on another one-play drive. A thirty-five yard pass from Raudabaugh to Aaron Wascha would go for a touchdown and Kenny Spencer would now convert his first extra point of this game as well. The Brigade would turn the ball over on downs on their next possession, putting the momentum fully on the Soul’s shoulders. The Soul would then answer back, adding a twenty-yard field goal from Spencer. Baltimore had the opportunity answer back, but would once again turn the ball over on downs. In this quarter, the Soul’s defense would come up big. At the end of the third quarter, the Soul led the Brigade, 30-21.
Going into the final quarter of play, the Philadelphia Soul began with possession after the Baltimore Brigade turned the ball over on downs last drive. On another quick drive, the Soul would score after one play on a five-yard touchdown pass from Dan Raudabaugh to Aaron Wascha. The Soul would go for another two-point conversion, but the pass attempt from Raudabaugh would fail. The Brigade would take possession for the first time in the fourth quarter and drive forty-five yards downfield, finishing on a forty yard touchdown pass from Shane Boyd to Milton Williams. Brandon Brown would attempt an extra point, but it would be blocked by the Soul for the second time this game. The next drive, the Soul would go eight plays before Raudabaugh threw an interception to Josh Victorian. The Brigade had a short clock to work within the final minute of the game. The Brigade would drive four plays before throwing an interception as well, picked off by Philadelphia’s Lenroy Neysmith. That would seal the game and the Soul would leave Baltimore with a victory, 36-27.
The turning point of this game were the two times that the Baltimore Brigade turned the ball over on downs in the third quarter, to which the Philadelphia Soul capitalized with scoring. In the third quarter alone, the Soul scored eighteen points to the Brigade’s seven points. Besides that quarter, this game was very evenly matched.
What stands out this game is not only the playmaking ability of the Baltimore Brigade defense (they did win the turnover battle,) but the special teams play for both teams. The Brigade were credited with a fumble recovery and an interception, but the Philadelphia Soul did record an interception of their own on defense. The two extra point blocks, the onside kick, and the twenty-yard field goal by Kenny Spencer were big for the Soul. Taking points off the board, scoring points when you can, and stealing back a possession on an onside kick will balance out losing possession from a fumble or interception.
Both teams ran a total of thirty-six plays and both passed heavy. The Philadelphia Soul only ran the ball four times and the Baltimore Brigade ran the ball twice. Adrian Ferns did fumble on one of those carries, so it was smart to make the adjustments. Last week against the Atlantic City Blackjacks, the Soul ran twelve times and Ferns had a great game, named offensive player of the game. Dan Raudabaugh and Shane Boyd both played games that nearly mirrored on another. Raudabaugh completed nineteen of thirty-two passes, throwing five touchdowns and one interception. Boyd completed eighteen of thirty-three passes, throwing four touchdowns and one interception.
Baltimore Brigade head coach, Omarr Smith, said post-game “we didn’t execute well tonight” and “we didn’t make enough plays to get the job done.” It sounds like just a quick assessment, but Smith hit in right on the head. The separation in the third quarter was the deciding factor in this game. The Most Valuable Player of the game was Philadelphia Soul quarterback, Dan Raudabaugh. The Offensive Player of the Game was the Soul’s Aaron Wascha, who recorded five catches for ninety-two yards and three touchdowns. Defensive Player of the Game honors went to Brigade defensive back, Josh Victorian, who recorded eight tackles, an interception, and two pass breakups. “Being defensive player of the game doesn’t mean as much to me when you take a loss like that,” said Victorian.
Next week, the Philadelphia Soul (2-0) are back home as they host the Albany Empire. The Baltimore Brigade (1-1) will host the Columbus Destroyers next week.