By: David Taylor
It’s here! After a twelve-game regular season and a two-round aggregate, the matchup is set for ArenaBowl 32. The Albany Empire will host the Philadelphia Soul on August 11, 2019, at 8 pm on ESPN 2. Both teams cruised through the aggregate round, although Philadelphia got much more of a challenge from Washington than Albany did from Baltimore. Here is what to expect from this championship showdown.
The Empire and the Soul are undoubtedly the two best teams in the AFL right now. Philadelphia struggled early in the season, costing the Soul the #2 seed in the playoffs. However, over the last seven games, Philadelphia is 6-1. The only loss came to Albany in the final game of the regular season. Albany is also 6-1 over the previous seven games, with the Empire’s only loss coming to Philadelphia in week 10. It doesn’t get any better than that.
Albany Empire Players to Watch:
- QB Tommy Grady- AFL MVP
- WR Malachi Jones- Wide Receiver of the Year. Offensive Player of the Year
- DL Joe Sykes- Defensive Lineman of the Year
- K Adrian Trevino- Kicker of the Year
- OL Ryan Cave- Offensive Lineman of the Year
- FB Mikey Benson- AFL First Team
- WR Quentin Sims- AFL First Team
- OL Jordan Mudge- AFL First Team
Look at all those honors! Albany has had an exceptional season. The Empire can score at any given moment through multiple players. Albany’s prolific offense is nearly impossible to stop.
Albany wins if: the Empire protect Tommy Grady and commit no turnovers. In the loss to Philadelphia, Albany was sacked twice and Grady was picked off once. If Albany keeps the pocket clean and avoids the sticky fingers of James Romain and the Philadelphia secondary, the Empire will be bringing the ArenaBowl title home for the first time in twenty years.
Philadelphia Soul Players to Watch:
- WR Darius Prince- AFL First Team
- OL Neal Tivis- AFL First Team
- DB James Romain- Defensive Back of the Year, Defensive Player of the Year
Less lauded than Albany, Philadelphia still boasts loads of talent on offense and defense. Head coach Clint Dolezel was recently announced as the AFL coach of the year as well. Dolezel will be coaching in his third ArenaBowl as the Soul head coach. He is 2-0 in the previous outings. This experience could be what Philadelphia needs to pull off the upset this weekend.
Philadelphia wins if: The Soul will pull of the upset if a couple of things happen. One: James Romain picks off a minimum of two passes. Two: Someone on offense besides Darius Prince steps up. Wide Receiver Lonnie Outlaw has had great success against Albany this season. In three games against Albany, Outlaw recorded five receiving touchdowns. Getting Aaron Wascha back, as well as putting Darius Reynolds on offense again has made the Soul offense much more potent. Philly wins if one of these receivers rises to the occasion.
The Pick: Albany Empire 58, Philadelphia Soul 53
Here are our final staff picks of the season: