Soul can't finish perfect home season, fall to the Sharks
PHILADELPHIA - Despite having won all 10 of their first home games in 2015, the Philadelphia Soul failed to pull out the final game at the Wells Fargo Center, falling to the Jacksonville Sharks 61-56 in the American Conference Championship Game. The Soul will head home, finishing their season at 16-4, while the 12-8 Jacksonville Sharks will head to Stockton, California to take on the San Jose SaberCats in ArenaBowl XXVIII.
The fourth quarter was a roller coaster for both teams. The Soul stopped the Sharks on four consecutive plays and got the ball back with 18 seconds left in a five-point game. They ran multiple short passing plays to Shaun Kauleinamoku and Ryan McDaniel before trying to get the ball to Lonnie Outlaw in the endzone. The last gasp was picked off by LaRoche Jackson to end the game.
It was the Joe Hills Show on the Sunday afternoon edition of the AFL’s conference championship weekend. Hills had five receptions, all of which were touchdowns. The Soul were without cornerback Kent Richardson, and they clearly were struggling to lock up the dynamic Sharks receivers without him. Dwayne Hollis and Brandon Freeman saw most of the action on the outside. Freeman has been inactive for most of the season, and Hollis saw limited time this year.
The Sharks saw the Tommy Grady that his three teams in the last three years have all dreamed of. Grady put on a show, throwing absolutely perfect balls, ending with 238 yards and eight touchdowns. Grady was in complete command the whole night and has to give a lot of credit to his offensive line. The big guys up front gave Grady a bunch of time on every throw and continued to play at the high level they did all season.
One player who did struggle for Jacksonville though, was fullback Derrick Ross who was called for three holding penalties against Beau Bell and Justin Lawrence tonight. Ross ran twice for five yards, and the Sharks elected to run with Grady on the one-yard line instead of Ross. Ross dominated once again this season, but he struggled to get anything going against his former team.
Soul quarterback Dan Raudabaugh struggled with hitting his spots early on, and his timing was off on multiple throws. Screen passes to Kauleinamoku were off target, a hitch route ran by McDaniel was intercepted after Raudabaugh threw to the spot of an out route, and the offense truly didn’t click until very late in the fourth quarter.
What at the time didn’t look like it would be killer to the Soul, a fumble from Shaun Kauleinamoku in the first quarter forced by Sharks jack linebacker Alvin Ray Jackson would end up being fatal to the Soul, as that one stop from the first quarter proved to be the difference in the game.
The Sharks will advance to ArenaBowl XXVIII, their second ArenaBowl trip in team history. The Soul lost their first conference championship in team history after three wins.