Monday, June 25, 2012

Visiting Enemy Territory: Power vs Soul Review

As I mentioned in my brief preview last week, I had the chance to travel to Philly this weekend to catch the Power on the road. Despite the fact that we lost (hard) it was a lot of fun, and I look forward to doing it again some time.

Approaching enemy territory.

For those of you who haven't been to Philly professional sports DMZ, Wells Fargo Center lies a subway ride away from downtown, clustered with Citizens Bank Park and Lincoln Financial Field, putting everything right on top of each other. The Brothers Keller and I were lucky enough to arrive just as the first game of a Phils double-header was letting out and everyone was heading across the street to Xfinity Live to drink. Whereas my brother-in-law was being the good homer and wearing local garb, the Kellers and I stood out just a wee bit in our black n gold amid the sea of red.

Looks varied from "WTF jersey is that?" to "I don't know what that is, but black and gold means I must hate you."

After some time trying to blend in with the locals and having a few adult beverages at Victory (Pittsburgh seriously needs a setup like this place) we headed in for the game. Even though Wells Fargo only holds a couple of hundred people less than Consol, it somehow feels much more cramped. I don't know what it was - maybe the seats are smaller, maybe it's because the jumbotron is way higher or what, but it feels smaller inside. By luck of the draw, our seats were almost exactly the same as what we have every week at home (which led to a comical double-take from the highlight film crew), but the different setup put us right behind the bench.

Hi, Tomczak!

I go to every home game, but this was the first time that it really felt like my cheering shenanigans could actually be noticed by the team. When we walked down to our seats, Superman saw us and threw a salute. Cool stuff.

Now, for the game itself. I don't think any of us really expected to win, and we sure didn't - but that's more because of the strength of the Soul than weakness of the Power. This is not to say that the Power's skills didn't play a part - weak offense, poor protection of the quarterback, etc were all in play - but damn, the Soul is just a solid, solid team who has earned everything they've gotten this season.

The game got off to an inauspicious start with the Power getting stopped dead on their opening drive - but a clutch interception by "Gingabread" LeFlore on Raudabaugh's first pass of the game turned things back around. To be honest, the first half didn't get too out of control, and we actually had the right to hope. At the beginning of the second quarter, we had the lead and were slowly but surely getting the job done.

However, Philly came back with a touchdown to Brackins, a 4-and-out stop, touchdown to Morgan and then that traditional pick that we've talked about before. That one that you can look back on as the play that took the wind out of the Power's sails. Even so, the first half ended 27-13, which isn't insurmountable, but it wasn't optimal. The third was painful, but still "in there" somewhere. It wasn't until the end of the forth where it just got a bit ugly and then it was over.

I'm going to give full disclosure here. Where I was sitting, my view should have been a lot like this:

Clear, unobstructed awesome.

However, given that the delightful Soulmates actually hang out in the audience at Wells Fargo, a few times, my view was more like this:

Obstructed awesome.

It took me almost an entire quarter to realize that the guy to her left was wearing a kilt. A kilt. So, that being said, I might have missed a few details, but here are some highlights.
  • Oderick Turner had a monster night this week, putting up almost identical numbers to Philly's Tiger Jones. That's fantastic. The triple threat of Jones, Hughley and "Captain" Morgan is most of what makes the Soul such a good team, and Turner should be proud to have stood with them.
  • Even though Randall has protection problems with his offensive line, he still actually had some good numbers this week, putting up 60 yards more than Raudabaugh and only one more pick. To put that in perspective, Raudabaugh has solid blockers that give him a lot time to think. (He's also near-unflappable.) Much like Turner above, when put in context, it says a lot.
  • In the second half, Donovan Morgan made one of those catches that belong on the highlight reel. Raudabaugh over-threw him a bit, so he had to charge through the end zone, slam into the wall and pluck the ball out of the air inches from a fan's lap. I bring this up because of something Keller's brother Erik said to me. He said that it was one of those plays that, irrespective of team, was athletic, exciting and makes people love Arena Football. He's not wrong.
Something else to mention about our little road-game adventure. On the way out, we made one rest stop between here and Philly, and I had randomly decided to wear a Power t-shirt that I'd never put on before. Turns out, this happened to be the same time and stop the Power bus chose as well. We were lucky enough to have a brief meet and greet with several members of the team including Superman himself. That was great for us, personally, but there was something for everyone there.

We chatted with a member of the Power front office who asked if we had renewed our season tickets yet. I explain to him that, to be 100% frank, we weren't sure if the team would still be here next year, so we were giving it a wait-and-see approach. His response was that Mr. Swann and Shaner are 100% committed to the team, and they will be back next season.

This is great news, because while I sat amongst nearly 10,000 crazy (and at times very...Philly) fans I happened to look up and see this:

It's blurry, but it says Arena Bowl XXII champs.
...And, dammit, I want one.

Elsewhere in the league

Given the fact that we're in the anything-can-happen phase of the season, I'm shocked that I went nearly 100% on my picks again this week.
  • The Game of the Week was back on Friday night, and that was great, 'cause it meant that I got to see it. The Preds really made a run at the spoil, especially with some help from Rocco making his normal blunders. In the last minute, the Preds were up by one, but a touchdown followed by a safety sealed the deal for the Voodoo.
  • Arizona didn't have much trouble against Milwaukee this week and advanced to 11-3, staying one game behind the Soul. The post-season is getting interesting.
  • As I suspected, Cleveland's forfeit seems to have gotten in their head as they extended their losing streak to 5. They should be a better team than Jacksonville, and the fact that the game stayed within 7 almost the whole game proves it. Sharks win, 56-42. With the Mustangs also dropping one this week, the Gladiators remain in 2nd place in our division, but are now in the "need some help" to think about the playoffs.
  • Talons definitely wanted it more, and Tampa finally dropped one at home this week. Talons remain tied with the Rattlers at 11-3, which means that the second-to-last game of the season is going to most likely have staggering implications.
  • The Rush won a fairly safe game on the road against the Command, which keeps them in the running for a playoff spot. 59-41 is comfortable, but their road games are always scary.
  • Once again, Tommy Grady and crew annihilated their opponent 61-38. I've talked in the past of the records that Grady is going to set this season, and you only need to look at this week. 25/28, 306 yards, 8 touchdowns and zero interceptions. I'm not saying he's the next Kurt Warner, but I'm wondering if any NFL team is eyeing him as a backup.
  • Here's the one game that I missed the pick on. After getting thwumped at home earlier this season by the Cats, the Shock returned the favor with a 90-63 victory Saturday night. Re-read what I said about Grady above and realize that Rowley had a better night. 30/37, 392 yards, 12 TDs and only one interception. Take a bow, Kyle - you earned it.
Playoff Picture

Not a lot has changed since last week, except that the Rush is getting a look in and the Cats are bumped for the time being.. The Cats' loss was a blow in the standings, but they're only a half-game shy of Chicago, so it's not time to write their epitaph just yet.

Assuming neither of them royally screw the pooch, the Ratts and Talons are going to be #1 and #2 in the conference, and which one is which might very well come down to their late-season match-up. The Ratts doubled the Talons' score last time, so even if Garcia wins this round, they'll need to put up some serious points to offset that loss, all other things being equal. They also have to think about the fact that there's a very good chance they'll have to play each other again to reach the Arena Bowl.

The American Conference is just a mess. Aside from the Soul, we still can't say anything for sure - not even who is going to be in and who's going to be out (except for Pittsburgh, Orlando and KC.) The live bracket right now says Jax, Voodoo and Force, and that's as good of a guess as any. Tampa and Cleveland can both get in, but I don't think that either has got the drive to do it any more. If the Mustangs knuckle down and get some help, they might get in - but they'd need to get past Cleveland and have someone in the South nose-dive.

So, that's the weekend in review. I'll be back on Friday with the next update

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