Coming back home from being on the road, the Philadelphia Soul are going to have to get used to the Albany Empire very quickly, preferably in a winning fashion, this Saturday. Earlier this season, the Empire defeated the Soul in Philadelphia in a game that was actually even closer than the nine-point loss suggests. In fact, if the ball takes one single bounce differently on an onside kick, Torez Jones recovers and the Soul has the opportunity to beat Albany. That wasn’t the case and “if’s” don’t matter in the actual outcome.
The Philadelphia Soul play the Albany Empire two out of the final three games of this season. This Saturday will be the first of the two meetings, followed by a game against the Atlantic City Blackjacks in Atlantic City, before finishing on the road in Albany. In these next three weeks, the Soul has the opportunity to clinch a playoff spot for the post-season. They also have the opportunity to become the hottest team in the Arena Football League.
Ponder this for a moment, the Philadelphia Soul were not blown out by the Albany Empire in their first matchup and are on a two-game winning streak. The Empire did just defeat the Atlantic City Blackjacks, but the Blackjacks put up over sixty points against Albany. The Soul recently allowed a season-low on points defensively against Atlantic City at home. With a win, Philadelphia would get a win against the top-ranked AFL team in the overall standings, clinch a playoff spot at home, and go on the road to face the Blackjacks, a team who has yet to defeat the Soul. That would really assist Philadelphia going into their final game this season.
However, it’s not good to get ahead of ourselves, so let’s get our attention back to this weekend. The Philadelphia Soul host the Albany Empire at the Wells Fargo Center at 3:30pm on Saturday, June 29th. This game, the Soul are the underdogs against the favorited Empire.
Dan Raudabaugh didn’t have the cleanest of games last week against the Columbus Destroyers, but it was enough to get the job done with the help of high energy defensive production from James Romain and Dwayne Hollis. Adrian Ferns has been a tool Philadelphia has been able to use to their advantage in the past three games as well. If at all, we’ve learned just how versatile the Soul has become when one unit isn’t firing on all cylinders. Philadelphia can never be counted out, even against what seemingly is a juggernaut in Albany.
Tommy Grady had a “light’s out” performance against the Atlantic City Blackjacks, throwing seven touchdowns and no interceptions. Like the Philadelphia Soul, the Albany Empire also was able to score on the ground with Mykel Benson. The Empire was active on defense, as Cheatham Norrils intercepted Warren Smith. In the comparison between the team performances last week, there is a direct correlation between the last time the Soul and Albany faced each other. Dan Raudabaugh has to be able to keep up with Grady.
For Clint Dolezel, the novelty of tying Jay Gruden in the all-time AFL wins had been achieved with the win in Ohio against the Columbus Destroyers. What’s better is passing Gruden in the AFL all-time wins standings with a sweet victory against a dominant team like the Albany Empire. Empire head coach, Rob Keefe, would be attempting to gain his eighteenth win all-time with Albany and ninth this season. Philadelphia, as mentioned previously, could clinch a playoff position with a win at home this Saturday. The Empire would secure home-field advantage in the playoffs with a victory.
Recently, the Philadelphia Soul defense has been playing very well, which is a contrast from the first meeting between the Soul and the Albany Empire. In the last four games, Philadelphia has forced eleven turnovers. They only forced five in the first five games of the season. Another portion of the Soul that deserves high praise is their offensive line. They allowed Dan Raudabaugh to be sacked once this season. However, the Empire has not allowed a single sack on Tommy Grady. The focal point of this game against Albany is the battle between the offensive and defensive lines for both teams.
Dan Raudabaugh and his Philadelphia Soul offense have done a league-best job in the red zone this season, converting 86% of chances. The Albany Empire has held opposing offenses to a 60% conversion rate. The Empire scored a touchdown on every possession of the last meeting, while the Soul scored on five possessions of seven. Tommy Grady and Malachi Jones shredded the Philadelphia defense. Last game, Lonnie Outlaw was the standout receiver for Philadelphia. Recently, it’s been Darius Prince alongside BJ Bunn. With all three of those in sync with Raudabaugh, there could be potential matchup nightmares for Albany. Raudabaugh was able to burn the Empire secondary for over three hundred yards that evening.
The Philadelphia Soul are back home still with an “everything to gain” mentality. The Albany Empire has it all. It’s time to rob, mob, and loot the Empire. Saturday, in Philadelphia at the Wells Fargo Center at 3:30pm, all of the Soul’s fans need to break out their ski masks from the Philadelphia Eagles season. Can Philadelphia write their own invitation into the AFL playoffs? Watch on NBCSP+ or ESPN3 and listen on 97.5FM The Fanatic.