For 59 minutes and 54 seconds, the Philadelphia Soul put up a fight against the powerful Arizona Rattlers, who boast the top record in the National Conference. But the Rattlers scored a one-yard touchdown with six seconds remaining in the game, snatching an improbable victory from the jaws of defeat. Following a missed field goal attempt on the game's final play, the Philadelphia Soul have likely been eliminated from a potential berth in the Arena Football League postseason.
"We were here to win a football game and unfortunately we left it out on the field and we didn't win," said Phladelphia Soul head coach Mike Hohensee. "They gave a tremendous effort and they're a great group of guys.
It should be a lot easier to make that field goal than throw a ‘Hail Mary’,” Hohensee said. “We practice field goals a lot, and we don’t get to practice it in a regular area. We had to take our shot and try and make one.”
The heartbreaking loss ruined what was probably the best game of the season by Soul quarterback Ryan Vena, who had been benched for Brandon Kirsch against the Tulsa Talons last week. With his job potentially on the line, Vena completed 18 of 32 passes for 226 yards and two touchdowns. More importantly, he did not throw an interception against the team that leads the AFL in turnover differential. He added four rushing touchdowns on eight scrambles.
"I've been watching a lot of film," Vena said. "As the season goes on, I become more and more comfortable with our offense and our players. We got a a new center who's doing a heck of job. We're a fighting group and I think we've shown that. Our record doesn't indicate how good we are."
Big fullback Darnell Whitley, standing 6'6 and weighing 330 pounds, contributed with a pair of five-yard rushing touchdowns.
At wide receiver, Donovan Morgan returned from a leg contusion that kept him out last week. He caught five passes for 98 yards and a touchdown. Keith Stokes grabbed six balls for 64 yards, Syvelle Newton caught five for 47, and Larry Brackins added an 11-yard touchdown reception. Stokes also returned six kicks for 150 yards, includin a 50-yarder.
On defense, Mike Brown intercepted two passes, including one in the end zone. But he was ejected from the game late in the fourth quarter on a controversial helmet-to-helmet hit, a play that might have cost the Soul a victory.
"If you don't get one of your best players thrown out of the game, that should help," Hohensee said. "Mike was doing a great job and all of a sudden he gets thrown out of the game for a technicality that I don't agree with, and that hurts us. The guy who replaced him was injured. That's why he wasn't starting in the first place."
Arizona quarterback Nick Davila tossed seven touchdowns, while wide receiver Rod Windsor earned Player of the Game honors with 11 grabs for 131 yards and three scores. His sensational seven-yard touchdown catch in the first quarter in which he literally dove into the stands to make the catch was voted as the Cutter Catch of the Game.
The Soul play their final road game of the season next week, against the Dallas Vigilantes (9-5) on Friday, July 2nd.