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Philadelphia Soul Win ArenaBowl XXX, Repeat as Champions!

Published On August 27, 2017 | Sports

Winning a championship is never easy, and defending that title the following season proves nearly impossible for every team that tries to accomplish the feat. Enter the Philadelphia Soul who won the Arena League title in 2016 and on Saturday, August 26, 2017, hosted the Tampa Bay Storm in ArenaBowl XXX. The opportunity for the Soul to defend their title, and become just the third AFL team to win back-to-back championships, was just one win away, but it wouldn’t come easy.

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With 13,648 fans at the Wells Fargo Center, the Soul won the coin-toss and deferred to the second half. Tampa Bay didn’t have the ball for long before James Romain came up with a big interception. The Soul were unable to capitalize and the Storm’s Kendrick Ings returned a missed field goal 57-yards for a touchdown (the longest play in ArenaBowl history) to put Tampa Bay up 6-0. That score would hold throughout the first quarter.

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Just over four minutes into the second quarter, the Soul finally got onto the scoreboard when Dan Raudabaugh connected with rookie Darius Prince and Philadelphia took the lead 7-6. The Storm was just beginning to rumble however and on their next drive, WR Joe Hills hauled in a 35-yard TD strike to put Tampa Bay back up 13-7. On the very next drive, Raudabaugh was intercepted by LB Alvin Ray Jackson who turned the ball 26-yards for a pick-6, putting the Storm up 20-7.

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Before Saturday night, no team trailing by 13 points had ever come back to win an ArenaBowl title. But if the Soul were aware of that fact, they weren’t letting on. Philly’s Mykel Benson rumbled into the end-zone at the end of the second half to bring the soul back within 6 points, trailing 20-14 at the half. The Soul opened the second half with Raudabaugh connecting with Darius Reynolds on a 40-yard TD to put the Soul up 21-20. However, Tampa Bay stormed back, with Ings’ scoring his second TD of the day, and the Storm retook the lead, 27-21. Going score-for-score, Philadelphia struck back with Benson charging into the end-zone for his second TD. The Soul, now up 28-27 would not relinquish the lead again.

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With 9:24 left in ArenaBowl XXX, Prince scored his second touchdown of the night for Philly to give the Soul their biggest lead of the night, 35-27. On the following drive, the Soul’s Sean Daniels notched the seventh safety in ArenaBowl history by sacking Randy Hippeard in the end-zone to expand Philly’s lead to 37-27. The Storm then successfully recovered an onside kick, resulting in a 42-yard TD by Justin Hilton. Now trailing by only 3 points, Tampa Bay again attempted an onside kick but this time the Soul recovered and Shaun Kauleinamoku found the end-zone to push Philadelphia’s lead back to 10.

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Tampa Bay never quit but their best effort was not enough and with just under 3 minutes remaining in ArenaBowl XXX, Dwayne Hollis intercepted Hippeard. The Storm eventually got the ball back and Ings scored his third TD of the game as time expired. The Soul successfully defended their title and won ArenaBowl XXX by the final score of 44-40!

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With the victory, the Soul became the first team to win the ArenaBowl at home since the Spokane Shock did it in ArenaBowl XXIII. Soul head coach Clint Dolezel became the sixth coach in AFL history to win a second ArenaBowl. In just his second game in the Arena Football League, Prince became the first rookie since Rick Hamilton in ArenaBowl XII to capture MVP with his two TDs to go with three tackles on special teams. Benson’s two rushing TDs earned him Offensive Player of the Game honors. Romain picked up the Defensive Player of the Game award.
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“For the second consecutive year, the Soul have brought the AFL Championship home to Philadelphia, and we are pleased to recognize this day and their incredible achievement,” said Mayor Jim Kenney.  “I declare Wednesday, August 30, 2017, ‘Philadelphia Soul World Champions Day’ in Philadelphia and hope that everybody comes out to City Hall at noon to celebrate the Soul for making our city proud.”

[Photos by: Brockswell Photography]

[Article by David Miller]

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