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Soul highlight 100th regular season win

Thursday April 21, 2016

 Winning a Constant in Soul’s Short History

PHILADELPHIA – When the Philadelphia Soul defeated the Portland Steel last Sunday, it marked the team’s 100th regular season win in franchise history. A feat that was captured in just over 10 seasons of play.

When rock legend Jon Bon Jovi and Craig A. Spencer founded the franchise entering the 2004 season, expectations were simple, win! Philadelphia fans are passionate and they show their hearts on their sleeves.

“When we bought the team in 2003, we knew the only way for us to survive is to win, and win a lot,” said co-majority owner Craig Spencer. “We’re proud of what we have accomplished to date, but also know we have a lot more to accomplish.”

While the team got off to a slow start in their first two seasons of play, the Soul showed it was serious about getting to the next level as one of the top teams in the AFL by targeting the most prolific free agent on the market: quarterback Tony Graziani. The Soul signed Graziani to the largest contract in AFL history and that was the starting point of success for the Soul.

“In the Arena Football League, it all starts with the quarterback position,” said Soul co-majority owner Ron Jaworski. “We wanted to be the best, so we went out and got the best quarterback in the league as soon as we had an opportunity to do so.”

Investing in Graziani had paid off, as the quarterback was able to lead the Soul to their first playoff appearance in 2006. In the first round of the playoffs, Graziani led the Soul to their first playoff win, a 52-35 victory over the Austin Wranglers. The following week they fell to the Orlando Predators in a closely contested 31-27 loss, but the organization was headed in the right direction.

The 2006 season propelled the Soul into the upper echelon of AFL teams for the next few seasons. The team qualified for the playoffs yet again in 2007, but were bounced in the second round for the second straight season. Then, in 2008, the Soul went on a historic run.

In the offseason leading up to the 2008 season, the Soul acquired former Rookie of the Year (2003) and Offensive Player of the Year (2006) wide receiver Chris Jackson. The added firepower at the receiving core was what the Soul thought they would need to get them over the early playoff hump and into ArenaBowl.

In Week 3 of the 2008 season, Graziani left late in the game after being hit to the knee. His season was all but over, and many thought so too were the Soul’s chances of making a run at a title. But then, backup quarterback Matt D’Orazio answered the bell in the weeks to come. Graziani’s injury was the start of a trend in the Soul locker room, as numerous key players felt the woes of the injury bug in the coming weeks.

D’Orazio went down in Week 10 a hobbled Graziani stepped in for the injured quarterback. However, Graziani was not fully recovered from his own knee injury and by the end of the game he had re-aggravated his injured knee, forcing him to be placed on the injured reserve. That same week defensive lineman Bryan Save suffered an arm injury and both defensive back Mike Brown and linebacker Rod Davis did not play in Week 10 due to injury.

Then came the bye week, allowing the injured players to rest up, and all were ready to return the following week against Dallas. Graziani was back under center to start the game, but suffered a concussion forcing D’Orazio to step in at quarterback yet again. The team rallied around their backup quarterback, and finished the year with three straight wins to clinch the best record in the league and secure home field advantage throughout the playoffs.

The Soul were tested yet again in the first round of the playoffs. The New York Dragons held a 48-42 lead late in the fourth quarter. D’Orazio led his team down the field, and in the waning seconds completed a pass to Larry Brackins for the game winning touchdown and a chance to win the conference championship.

The Soul doubled the Cleveland Gladiators score 70-35 in the National Conference Championship game, securing their first spot in ArenaBowl. Reigning ArenaBowl champions, the San Jose SaberCats were the Soul’s opponent, and the Soul were up to the task, defeating the SaberCats 59-56. D’Orazio was named ArenaBowl MVP.

Just as the Soul were reaching their peak, the AFL folded, suspending operations for the 2009 season. At that point, the Soul had 41 wins in franchise history, and the idea of getting to 100 wins was a pipedream. When the AFL started up again in 2010, the Soul were not an active team. The AFL reached out to the organization and former Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Ron Jaworski who was previously a minority owner of the team as well as the team president, partnered with Spencer to form the new ownership group. Pete Ciarrocchi, owner of Chickie’s and Pete’s, Cosmo DeNicola and Marty Judge also joined the Soul ownership group.

In the first season back after a two-year hiatus, the Soul finished with a record of 6-12. That finish once again prompted the Soul to sign a prolific AFL quarterback this time they brought in Dan Raudabaugh, the 2015 AFL MVP, who was tutored by AFL Hall of Fame quarterback Clint Dolezel, currently the Soul head coach.

In the two seasons that followed the 2011 restart, the team won a total of 27 games in the regular season and won the American Conference Championship both seasons. However, they lost in both the 2012 and 2013 ArenaBowls, the Soul proved they could bounce back quickly after two years of inactivity.

After a disappointing 2014 season where the Soul posted a record of 9-9 and were knocked out of the playoffs in the first round, the team bounced back in 2015. Last season they tied a franchise record with 15 regular season wins, finishing the season with 98 wins in franchise history.

This season, the Soul traveled to Cleveland in Week 1, and disposed of the Gladiators 69-41 for the franchise’s 99th victory. In Week 3, the Soul pounced on the Portland Steel 70-32, securing a 2-1 record on the season, securing their historic 100th victory in franchise history!

The winningest pro franchise in Philadelphia since their inaugural season in 2004 (winning percentage) the Soul can now check another milestone off its list. However, getting to 100 wins was not the team’s ultimate goal. Wins are nice, but every year the goal is to win it all. The 100th win was simply a byproduct of their goal of winning another ArenaBowl Championship.

While the league has endured some tough times the past few seasons since the restart in 2010, the momentum is now swinging in a positive direction under the direction of new league commissioner Scott Butera. Recent AFL news has included a national partnership with Geico, a broadcast partnership with Univision has been added to the ESPN, CBS Sports Network, and expansion in Washington DC with Monumental Sports, optimism is in the air for the 29 year-old league.

“Great things are about to happen in the Arena Football League,” said Ron Jaworski. “You will see significant growth in this league in the coming years, and the great thing is, no matter how many teams there will be in this league, the Soul will continue to be a consistent winner. We feel we have a great shot this season to bring home our second ArenaBowl championship.”

The Soul look for win number 101 this Saturday, April 23 at 4pm, at the Wells Fargo Center. The Soul take on conference rival, the Cleveland Gladiators. The game will be broadcast live on CBS Sports Network, and 97.5 The Fanatic.

ABOUT PHILADELPHIA SOUL
The 2015 Eastern Division Champion Philadelphia Soul are in their 11th Season of play. In the first ten seasons, the Soul have won four Division Championships, three Conference Championships and a World Championship. Since the inaugural season in 2004, the Soul are the winningest professional sports team in Philadelphia. Season memberships and Group tickets for the Soul’s upcoming 2016 season are on sale now. For tickets, contact the Soul sales department at (215) 253-4900 ext. 3, or request contact from a Soul representative by filling out the form on www.philadelphiasoul.com. Follow the Soul on Facebook at facebook.com/soul and Twitter at twitter.com/soulfootball.