The first time the Philadelphia Soul played the Milwaukee Mustangs, they lost on a touchdown pass on the final play of the game. In Friday night's rematch against the Mustangs, the Soul extracted revenge in the sweetest way possible, using a four-yard touchdown pass from Ryan Vena to Donovan Morgan to come from behind and steal a must-win victory to keep their slim postseason hopes alive. And in proving that revenge is surely the sweetest poision, the touchdown pass came on the game's final play, completing a high-scoring fourth quarter in a game that was dominated by defense.
In fact, the battle between the Soul and the Mustangs began with just the third combined scoreless first quarter in the short history of Philadelphia Soul football.
The Soul struck first in the second quarter, when Soul linebacker Brandon Perkins scampered into the end zone to recover a fumble from Mustangs quarterback RJ Archer. The Mustangs tied the game on a 25-yard touchdown pass to Damien Harrell but Vena hit wide receiver Syvelle Newton for a 13-yard touchdown pass late in the first half.
At halftime, the Soul led 14-10, in what was the lowest scoring combined first half in the history of Soul football.
Offenses remained slow throughout the third quarter, and the Mustangs ended the game's final quarter clinging to a 23-20 lead.
Then offenses caught fire, with both teams almost doubling their overall point total. The Mustangs took a 33-30 lead with just 2:46 remaining on a three-yard touchdown run by wide receiver Marcus Everett. But the Soul answered right back on a touchdown pass from Vena to Morgan, giving the Soul a 33-30 lead with 1:04 to play.
A failed onside kick led to a quick Mustangs touchdown, as running back Mykel Benson pounded it in from two yards to score his third touchdown of the game, giving the Mustangs a 37-33 lead with 55 seconds remaining.
But in Arena football, 55 seconds is more than enough time. Vena led the Soul down the field, and hit Donovan Morgan on a four-yard fade in the corner of the end zone on the final play of the game. The dramatic touchdown gave the Soul a 39-37 victory keeping their faint postseason hopes alive.
"We talked about just getting through this game and starting a ten-game winning streak," Philadelphia Soul head coach Mike Hohensee. "It's games like this that will propel you. These were our first back-to-back wins this season. We never gave up. We battled hard. I thought our defense played tremendous. Our offense plugged away and did what they needed to do at the end to win the game."
The game was extra satisfying for quarterback Ryan Vena, who struggled for 57 minutes before leading the Soul on a pair of late touchdown drives to win the game. Vena was intercepted on his second pass of the game and failed to lead the Soul offense into the end zone until the final minute of the second quarter. But he ended the game on fire, and his overall stat line (19-31, 214 yards, 5 TD, 2 INT) doesn't look too shabby.
"I hope he gains confidence out of that," Hohensee said. "Right now he's fighting it. Last week we won a game where he didn't play particularly well. He played poorly today and we won in spite of that, and that's a good sign. If you can play that poorly and still win a football game, you've got a good football team. That's what this is all about. It's about our team. Not everybody is going to have a perfect game every week."
Had the Soul lost, they would be 4-8 and in last place in the Eastern division of the American Conference. Instead they are 5-7, keeping them well within reach of the first-place Pittsburgh Power (7-4), who the Soul defeated in the first game of the season.
If the Soul can defeat the defending AFL champion Spokane Shock on the road next week, they will move within a game of .500. Their game is set for 8:00 p.m. on NFL Network.