Arena Audit 2018: Week 2
Philly Wins the “Battle of the Unbeatens”
Week two featured just one game, but those teams entered Saturday night with a combined zero losses. Thats how the league wanted you to feel about the matchup between Baltimore and Philadelphia after a pre-game press release touted this as a Battle of the Unbeatens. Like, okay, sure. I mean it is Week Two, but yeah, whatever you need to tell yourself to get hyped for literally the only game on the schedule.
Philly raised their Arena Bowl XXX Championship banner into the rafters of the Wells Fargo Center before taking the field looking for their 19th consecutive home win.
That streak looked to be in jeopardy for most of the night. The Soul jumped out an early 6-0 lead on a Dan Raudabaugh 38-yard touchdown pass to Darius Reynolds on the second play of the game. Baltimore, led by reigning AFL MVP Randy Hippeard, scored on back to back touchdown passes from Hippeard to Brandon Collins to take a 14-6 road lead early in the second quarter.
The teams traded touchdowns back and forth until the fourth quarter when Raudabaugh found Phillip-Keith Manley for an 8 yard touchdown pass to put the Soul on top 41-35, their first lead since the games opening score. The score was the fourth career touchdown catch for the OL/TE, and his first with Philadelphia after spending the last three seasons in Cleveland.
That is when, in true AFL fashion, things got wild.
Five fourth quarter touchdowns, five lead changes culminating in the game winning score for Philly on a 9-yard pass from Raudabaugh to Reynolds with just 12 seconds remaining. Reynolds 11 catches, 151 yards, and four touchdowns were all game highs, as the Soul outlasted the Brigade 54-49.
The Brigade are a much better team than I was willing to give them just a few weeks ago. An impressive home win last week against Washington and leading for 46:15 of sixty minutes against THE team in the AFL over the last few years.
Philly moves to 2-0, and will looks to run that home winning streak to 20 games Saturday night when the host the Washington Valor. Baltimore drops to 1-1 and will return home to Maryland to host the Albany Empire for a Saturday afternoon tilt.
Albany, in their inaugural game gave Philadelphia everything they wanted before losing in week one, got a boost to their offense when veteran receiver Joe Hills signed to join the Empire.
Hills is one of the most accomplished wide receivers currently in the Arena Football League. He has led the AFL in receptions, yards and touchdowns each of the last two seasons. In 2016, he recorded 161 receptions, 2020 yards, and 58 touchdowns with the Jacksonville Sharks. In 2017, he recorded 129 receptions, 1353 yards and 36 receptions with the Tampa Bay Storm. In his career, he has recorded 726 receptions, 8,883 yards and 230 touchdowns.
Hills was first team All-Arena each of the last two seasons and has been named All-Arena a total of four times in his six-year Arena Football League career. He currently holds the AFL record for the most consecutive games with a touchdown reception with 81, which is an active streak.
Being reunited with his former Jacksonville quarterback Tommy Grady, the Empire offense could see a vast improvement from week one. Grady and Hills have combined for 100 career touchdown passes, 14th all time.
This weeks game ball goes to Philadelphia Soul wide receiver Darius Reynolds. His 151 yard performance is his fourth 100+ yard game in his last six contests.