ONLY 5 SECONDS remained on the clock for the Philadelphia Soul.
After falling behind by one point with 41 seconds left, quarterback Dan Raudabaugh hit Anthony "Tiger" Jones on a 6-yard pitch-and-catch to secure a 60-55 win over the visiting Iowa Barnstormers yesterday. The Soul (3-3) has won its last three games.
"That's how arena football goes," Raudabaugh said. "We want the ball last. We got out of bounds when we needed to and made catches. It was a tight one, we have to get better, but it's good to get that first division win."
In front of a live audience on ESPN2 - the first AFL broadcast on an ESPN network since 2008 - the Soul's offense was nearly unstoppable. After an interception derailed its first drive of the game, Philadelphia attacked a stout Iowa defense that set a franchise record last week for fewest points allowed (12) against the Los Angeles KISS.
Raudabaugh went 26-for-35 with 283 yards and a season-high nine touchdowns in front of 10,062 fans at the Wells Fargo Center. Despite a few misfires on would-be scores, he managed the game with ease, utilizing quick passes to open up the field against a secondary that had forced five interceptions the previous week.
"[Dan] threw some great balls tonight," said coach Clint Dolezel. "We played good, both offense and defense. Dan picked them apart pretty much all night long and we got open and took care of the ball."
His favorite targets were V'Keon Lacey and Jones. Coming into the game with one touchdown all year, Lacey hauled in three touchdowns. Jones led all the wideouts with five scores on seven receptions.
"When the lights come on, I come out to play," said Lacey.
With 1 minute remaining, the Soul held a 54-52 lead following a failed onside kick. Iowa (3-3) took the lead on a 19-yard field goal, which left Philadelphia time for one final drive.
"We got up and hurried instead of wasting our last timeout," said Dolezel. "With 13 seconds left inside the 15, odds are good for us. Tiger got open, ran a great route and Dan threw it on the outside shoulder."
After starting 0-3, the Soul is beginning to hit its stride. According to Dolezel, who believes the team let a few games slip away on its season-opening road trip, one of the reasons behind Philadelphia's winning streak is improved special-teams play.
"We're making plays and we're steadily getting better," he said. "Special teams is making plays to give us good field position."
Kick returner Robert Redd racked up 189 return yards on eight attempts, which is impressive on a 50-yard field. His longest return was 33, but his most important one was his 24-yard return that gave the Soul favorable field position on its game-winning drive.
With the win, the Soul entered a three-way tie for second place in the East Division, with Iowa and Pittsburgh. Philadelphia will face its intrastate rival on the road next Saturday.