By: David Taylor
After two blow-out playoff games, it appears that the matchup Arena Bowl 32 is set. The Philadelphia Soul and the Albany Empire will more than likely be squaring off. Philadelphia will be looking for its third Arena Bowl championship, while Albany will be looking for its first-ever Arena Bowl championship as the Empire. (Albany previously won a title as the Firebirds in 1999.) Previously in the year, Philadelphia and Albany played three times with Albany winning two out of three. The last time these two teams played, Albany destroyed Philadelphia by a score of 72 to 27. Once the game got out of hand, it was clear that Philadelphia was no longer playing to win, which may explain the lopsided score.
Albany and Philadelphia still have to get through the second round of the aggregate scoring series for the playoffs, but both teams will be heading into next weekend with a +30 point margin. This margin means that Albany and Philadelphia will have to lose by more than 30 points next weekend to not advance to Arena Bowl 32. Albany seems to feel pretty good about its chances since ticket sales for the Arena Bowl have already been announced on the Empire’s social media sites. Arena Bowl 32 will be held at the higher seed, which will be Albany if the Empire can hold onto a 35 point cushion. Albany defeated Baltimore 61 to 26. Philadelphia defeated Washington 69 to 33. Next week, Albany and Philadelphia will look to finish off Baltimore and Washington.
The Soul surprised a lot of people by putting Darius Reynolds back on offense this week. The Reynolds move proved to be extremely useful as Reynolds scored three touchdowns in his return to the WR position. Defensive back James Romain shined as well, as he intercepted three passes, including the last desperation heave of the game to put an exclamation point on the victory for Philadelphia. Quarterback Dan Raudabaugh was equally impressive. The Soul signal-caller finished 17-23 for 284 yards and six touchdowns. Two early passes were dropped as well, meaning Raudabagh could have had even better numbers. He played at an MVP level in this game.
Albany dominated Baltimore from basically start to finish. The only exception was a kick off return for a touchdown by Joe Powell at the beginning of the game. Unfortunately for Baltimore, this is one of the few things that went right in the first half. Albany Empire quarterback Tommy Grady was sensational in the game, spreading the ball around everywhere. Grady’s favorite target was Quentin Sims. Sims caught five touchdown passes to lead the Empire to victory. This victory, coupled with a disastrous loss for Washington, likely settled the MVP debate for this season. The other leading contender to Tommy Grady for MVP was Arvell Nelson, quarterback of the Washington Valor. Nelson struggled mightily against the Soul, turning over the ball four times. The Most Valuable Player for the league this year will more than likely be Tommy Grady.
Albany and Philadelphia are playing their best football of the season right now. If these are the two teams that will participate in Arena Bowl 32, fans are in for a treat. August 11 is coming soon, and a new champion will be crowned!