Take Three: Soul and Rattlers meet again
There have been no two teams better than the Philadelphia Soul and Arizona Rattlers over the last six years. Statistically speaking, the Rattlers are 86-20 and the Soul are 70-36, the top two records of the eight teams in the AFL. The two best quarterbacks in the league? Nick Davila (Rattlers QB,) and Dan Raudabaugh (Soul QB.) This is the best of the best in the AFL, with seemingly a top five player at every position.
The main aspect of the game talked about by many is which defensive line will be able to get pressure on the opposing quarterback. The Soul and Rattlers both pride themselves with having elite lines on both sides of the ball. The top four leaders in sacks in the AFL this year all are on either the Rattlers or the Soul. In the previous two meetings, neither team got to the quarterback effectively, with only Justin Lawrence of the Soul recording a sack in the games.
The Soul have the league's defensive lineman of the year in Jake Metz, who will report to Philadelphia Eagles camp on a workout basis this coming Monday after the game. Metz recorded seven sacks this season, the best in the league. Opposite of Metz is Teddy Jennings, fourth in the league in sacks this year with five.
The Soul have two of the tallest defensive ends in the AFL with both standing it at 6’6. This can be very disruptive to the quarterback, because it becomes that much harder to see downfield with these two taller ends, especially if they're able to get their hands up.
In the middle for the Soul will be mac linebacker Beau Bell and nose guard Justin Lawrence. These two veterans don't light up the stat sheet, but bring constant pressure and can make a quarterback have to move around in the pocket or release the ball quickly.
All four of the Rattlers pass rushers were in the top ten in sacks this year. Two younger players broke out and seemingly took over the league this year for the Rattlers. Damien Borel was half a sack behind Metz with six and a half sacks this year, and rookie Dimetrio Tyson had six sacks.
While the younger players shined this year, two reliable veterans in Louis Vasquez and Tyre Glasper continued to get the job done with four sacks a piece.
So how do you counter the two best defensive lines in the AFL? Well of course with the two best offensive lines in the AFL!
The Rattlers have this year's offensive lineman of the year with Center Jordan Mudge, who was also awarded first All-Arena for the first time in his career. Mudge had undoubtedly his best season this year with the Rattlers, helping keep the Davila upright all season. The middle of the line is protected by not only Mudge, but fellow first teamer fullback Mykel Benson. Benson is dynamic back who the Soul’s front five will have to watch for in the run and pass game.
For the Soul, all four offensive linemen were placed on an All-Arena team. Tight end Adam Smith was awarded first team, while guard Neal Tivis, Center Wayne Tribue, and Fullback Jeramie Richardson all were selected to the second team.
Moving away from the trenches, Soul Wide Receiver Ryan McDaniel will play in tonight's game. McDaniel has been dealing with a lower body injury for the past few weeks and hasn't played in the playoffs yet. When asked how he feels about the upcoming game, McDaniel told me he feels well prepared.
“Got to play Soul football, perfect football as Clint (Dolezel) likes to calls it, and go execute the game plan. Arizona’s a great team and it should be a great game.” McDaniel said.
Along with Metz, Soul receiver Darius Reynolds is also reporting to Eagles camp Monday for a workout. Reynolds is having a great postseason to go along with his outstanding regular season, and is a matchup nightmare for defenses with his size and speed.
The Soul receiving core will have to face off against a Rattlers secondary headlined by middle man Jeremy Kellem. Kellem missed the first half of the season in an attempt to catch on with an NFL team, but since returning has recorded four interceptions. Veteran corner Arkeith Brown is having another great season for the Rattlers as well, with six interceptions.
The Soul secondary has never been better than it is in 2016. With the defensive player of the year in Tracy Belton at corner, first team All-Arena jack linebacker Joe Goosby having a career year, Dwayne Hollis hitting his stride and being awarded an All-Arena selection in his second year in the AFL, and middle man James Romain becoming a true veteran, this secondary is tough to beat.
Against Jacksonville however, the secondary did have problems in zone coverage, leaving Joe Hills wide open for multiple touchdowns. That can't happen this week against receivers like Mo Purify and Rod Windsor.
“We need to all be on the same page.” James Romain said. “Play alignment, assignment, and technique discipline football as well as believe, and we will win the game.” Romain said.
Not much more needs to be said. This could be a game that goes down in the history books. These two teams seem to be as even as they ever have been. The two teams head coaches were awarded Co-Coach of the year awards last night at the award banquet. Both Quarterbacks went on the two All-Arena teams. Both fullbacks the same. Find me a better matchup in recent AFL history. I'll wait.