To begin the second half, the Albany Empire had the ball since they deferred the winning coin toss. On the first drive, Tommy Grady would find Mykel Benson for an eight-yard touchdown, extending the lead to 42-21. Everything had to start to go right for the Philadelphia Soul. Dan Raudabaugh and the offense made it in the red zone, ready to score, but Adrian Ferns was stuffed twice. It was fourth and goal, down by twenty-one. Raudabaugh did a dive option on the goal line but opted to pull the ball away and scramble around the offensive line to the endzone. Jeramie Richardson was able to wrap up Raudabaugh’s foot and bring him down for a loss on the rush, effectively turning the ball over on downs. Clint Dolezel explained the play call after the game, “it’s a read. A dive option. We were, at that point, searching because we were getting stuffed. We’re not used to that. We’re used to, for years, since I’ve been coaching and since I’ve been playing, we’re able to run that play and get it in. Tonight we couldn’t. That’s a very rare thing for us.” The Empire turned the ball over on downs in four plays, after Grady’s pass fell incomplete to Malachi Jones.
Beginning the last quarter of Arena Bowl 32, the Philadelphia Soul had possession on offense. Rather quickly, Dan Raudabaugh completed a pass to Lonnie Outlaw for a three-yard touchdown. Kenny Spencer’s kick was blocked by Joe Sykes. The next drive for the Albany Empire, the Soul held them out of the endzone on defense. Adrian Trevino kicked a thirty-one-yard field goal. This would be the last point scored in the game, bringing us to the final score of 45-27. Philadelphia would turn the ball over on downs again after Darius Prince was not able to get the ball into the endzone. The end of the game saw an ugly turn of events for the AFL when James Romain and Demetres Stephens were ejected from the game for throwing punches at each other. Romain explained thoroughly what happened that led up to that moment with Stephens:
“A few years ago, the guy Stephens, I smoked him across the middle. Smoked him. He tried to catch a pass, I almost killed him. He tried to talk, ‘I’m too little.’ I said ‘bro, I almost killed you before. You almost went to the ER.’ Luckily the doctors were on scene. If the doctors wasn’t on scene, they would have to call the paramedics for him. So, I told him that. He got mad, the end of the game, he tried to hit me with a cheap shot and I threw him down and he got up and tried to put his hands in my face. I slammed him again, he tried to get up, and I tried to knock his head off. I’m not a chump. Ya’ll winning, but you’re not gonna’ punk me.”James Romain on Demetres Stephens; 8/11/2019
One of the biggest challenges for the Philadelphia Soul was the inability to keep drives going and turning the ball over on downs. The unearned turnovers, ones that aren’t interceptions or forced fumbles, were compiled with Maurice Leggett’s interception and a fumble recovery. Clint Dolezel commented on not being able to convert on goal-line situations, “without going too far into it, we’re at the one-yard line. We got to be able to punch that in. I don’t know what else to say, we’re usually pretty good about that. If we had it over again, I’d do it the same way and I think we would get in, but tonight we didn’t.”
The agony of defeat was very real. As the cast of media and reporters took the field to get the live reactions of players, coaches, and even the fans after Arena Bowl 32, it was hard to see just how much the Philadelphia Soul players wanted this win and the realization that August 11th, 2019 was simply not their night. James Romain did a great job of putting this game and season into perspective for his teammates, “basically, it’s a stepping stone. It’s not the end of the world. Young guys, they got a lot more years to come.” I spoke to Romain and asked him what the most important trait of the Soul team is after overcoming the adversity of the 2019 season to make it to the Arena Bowl:
“Confidence. Gotta’ be confident. You always want to work your craft, you always want to get better, so it’s always the next play. The last play we played was Albany winning the championship. So, [to] come back next year, we can’t dwell on that.”James Romain on the Philadelphia Soul going into 2020; 8/11/2019
In saying this, James Romain wishes they could go back to playing tomorrow. That is the hunger and fire he, as the AFL Defensive Player of the Year, brings to the table.
In all, the Arena Bowl 32 weekend and gameday were special not only for the Albany Empire and their fans but for the AFL as a whole. For myself, my cast of beat writers, and David Malanda Jr, it has been an incredible time covering all that is the Philadelphia Soul and the Arena Football League. We are excited about next season and the growth of the AFL. I am very proud of the Soul and the Arena Bowl 32 appearance that they fought for. However, 2019 belongs to the Empire and the city of Albany.