The Philadelphia Soul (3-3) will host the defending Arena Bowl champions, the Washington Valor (3-3), at the Wells Fargo Center this Sunday at 4 pm. This season, the Valor does hold a victory over the Soul, but the fans in Philadelphia last Saturday saw a team that was working on all cylinders.
The Soul defense came alive against the Columbus Destroyers and Dan Raudabaugh was untouched because of his offensive line, on the way to being the offensive player of the game. Darius “Money” Reynolds will continue to play linebacker and wide receiver for the Soul, as confirmed by head coach Clint Dolezel. Reynolds had a fumble recovery last week after Torez Jones stripped the ball away. BJ Bunn on the offensive side was able to come away with two touchdowns and step up when the wide receiver depth was required to make plays. This team is resilient. They will keep their momentum and learn from the loss earlier this season to the Valor.
Clint Dolezel secured his eightieth win as head coach of the Philadelphia Soul at home last week against the Columbus Destroyers. Benji McDowell, head coach of the Washington Valor, owns a seven-win and ten loss record. In eight matchups, the Soul has won six against the Valor. Live to watch on NBCSP+ or ESPN3, at the Wells Fargo Center, or to listen to on 97.5 The Fanatic, the Soul are playing for an opportunity to be owners of a winning record and remaining in second place in the Arena Football League standings.
Last week, the Washington Valor was the latest victim of the undefeated Albany Empire. Arvell Nelson threw for seven touchdowns, four of which found the hands of Doug McNeil III. Earlier this season, Nelson threw for five touchdowns against the Philadelphia Soul, when Reggie Gray led the team with two touchdown receptions in the game. The Soul defense found ways to make plays against the Valor offense and coming off their best defensive display this season, Philadelphia will have to keep up in the secondary to force turnovers once again.
The Valor won on a touchdown pass to McNeil III with six seconds remaining in the game earlier this season, a game that the Soul fought valiantly to finally lead in the fourth quarter. Washington is coming off of a fine defensive performance as well against the Empire. Marrio Norman recorded an interception and Dezmon Epps recovered a fumble forced by Leon Mackey. Dan Raudabaugh is going to have to continue his chemistry with Darius Prince and BJ Bunn on offense, who were the stand out performers against the Columbus Destroyers.
In front of 8,672 attendees at the Wells Fargo Center last Saturday night, the Philadelphia Soul snapped a three-game losing streak as they started their homestand, sparked by an interception returned for a touchdown by defensive back, James Romain. The Soul defense provided a spark, but Dan Raudabaugh will keep the current running right back through Philadelphia. Raudabaugh has had success against the Washington Valor defense, passing for thirty-one touchdowns and completing above seventy percent of passes in five career games. Arvell Nelson currently does lead the AFL in rushing yards, but Darius Reynolds will look to keep his rushing yards limited. Nelson also leads the AFL in passing yards. He is a dual-threat franchise player in the AFL this season and the Soul will have to adjust as well as they did against the Columbus Destroyers to keep the damage to a minimum.
Darius Prince has been on the receiving end of a Dan Raudabaugh touchdown throw for the past nine games, which is the longest active streak on the team. Last week against the Columbus Destroyers, Prince collected two of those from Raudabaugh. As I touched on previously, Raudabaugh’s success is a telltale of how the Philadelphia Soul performs against the Washington Valor. He has had at least five touchdown passes in each game he has played against the Valor, owning a four win and one loss record. He was six seconds away from remaining undefeated against Washington earlier this season.
What comes with a victory for the Philadelphia Soul this Sunday is a winning record at four wins and three losses. The Soul would also move ahead of the Washington Valor in the AFL standings. The Valor is allowing a league worst in points per game of just about forty-three. The Soul average just about forty-two points a game, which is second to the Albany Empire. Clint Dolezel would be just one game behind Jay Gruden for the seventh place all-time in AFL history. Expect a high scoring affair! Earlier this season in Washington, Dan Raudabaugh passed the “century mark” with two different wide receivers. Darius Prince and Aaron Wascha both had over a hundred receiving yards. With Wascha out this time around, the Soul will look toward Lonnie Outlaw and BJ Bunn alongside Prince.
My prediction is a 46-43 in favor of the Philadelphia Soul. I do think that Dan Raudabaugh is going to go through his progressions and spread the ball around like he usually does against the Washington Valor, but I think Adrian Ferns will be back in the mix this week to convert a two-point conversion to make up for a Kenny Spencer extra point miss. Arvell Nelson is going to do damage, which is why I stated that keeping the damage to a minimum is very important. With James Romain, Dwayne Hollis, Torez Jones, and Darius Reynolds playing defense in the form they did this past weekend, however, the Valor will be looking at a much improved Philadelphia football team. Like last week, this is another must-win for the Soul to get back to a winning record, which would be huge to ride a winning streak back home on June 16th as the Soul host the Atlantic City Blackjacks for the first time in AFL history.