We-e-e-e Are The Champions, My Frie-e-end!
OK,..it ain't the Phillies or Eagles, but,....
By Kevin Tatum
INQUIRER STAFF WRITER
NEW ORLEANS - With 39 seconds remaining in today's ArenaBowl, the Soul appeared headed to their first Arena Football League championship with plenty of points to spare.
But in a game in which touchdowns come one after another and the points usually keep piling up, it was not that easy for the Soul. Before they could finally claim a 59-56 victory over the San Jose SaberCats, the Soul had to sweat it out after the defending champions erased all but three points of a 17-point deficit.
"All I could think about was the Philadelphia curse," Soul coach Bret Munsey said afterward with a laugh. "I hope this clears the way for Mo Cheeks and Andy Reid, and those guys. Now we can win championships in Philadelphia. I hope that takes care of everything."
A sellout crowd of 17,244 was on hand at the New Orleans Arena, and a Soul spokesperson said nearly 2,000 of those fans were from the Philadelphia area.
The Soul (16-3), who have been in existence for five seasons, made their first appearance in the title game. San Jose (13-6), which was after its fourth crown in seven years, had never lost a final.
On a day on which Soul quarterback Matt D'Orazio was named the game's most valuable player after passing for seven touchdowns - three to offensive player of the game Chris Jackson - it was his team's first-half defense that proved to be the difference in the game.
The Soul led, 46-34, going into the fourth quarter, with two of those points coming on a third-period safety by linebacker Raheem Orr. The Soul, who scored during the first quarter after coming up with an interception and after ending a SaberCats drive on downs, added one fumble recovery in each of the third and fourth periods.
"We just went out there and gave it our all and played total team defense," said Soul defensive tackle Gabe Nyenhuis, who had a sack and a forced fumble and was named defensive player of the game.
When the Soul and SaberCats faced off during the regular season in San Jose, that contest also went down to the wire. The Soul scored the deciding points of a 58-57 win on a two-point conversion run with 10 seconds remaining, and the SaberCats' 48-yard field goal attempt as time ran out was no good.
San Jose had a 33-14 advantage at intermission in the April 12 encounter.
Today, the Soul was up by 37-27 at the break, thanks largely to the defense coming up with the only defensive stops of the first two periods.
With the score knotted at 20-20, San Jose ran out of downs at its own 20-yard line, and the Soul took a 27-20 lead on a 20-yard touchdown pass from D'Orazio to wide receiver Larry Brackins with 5 minutes, 31 seconds left in the second quarter.
And, after Soul defensive back Eddie Moten picked off a pass and returned it 17 yards to the Soul's 23-yard line, D'Orazio scored on an eight-yard run with 54 seconds to go that gave his team a 34-20 advantage.
"We wanted to come out and play hard, but we made the game closer than what it should have been" Moten said. "But what's done is done. We're champions."
Labels: Philly Stuff