With Justin Allgood's trade to the Tulsa Talons on Tuesday, Soul quarterback Ryan Vena has the first-string spot all to himself as the team moves into the second half of its Arena League schedule Saturday night in Cleveland against the Gladiators.
"To be honest, I still feel like I'm earning it," Vena said. "I want to go out there and prove not only to myself, but to my coaches and teammates, that I'm worthy of the position. I really just want to go out there and lead us to wins. That's what it's all about."
Vena threw for seven scores in a 20-for-28 passing performance last week as the Soul handed visiting Georgia a 68-49 defeat. Against East Division leader Cleveland (5-3), the 33-year-old Colgate graduate will need similar success if the Soul (3-6) are to come out on top and remain within reach of the Gladiators.
With a victory, the Soul would pull within a game and a half of the lead. The Soul have won two of their last three games after losing five of their first six.
"This is a statement game for our football team," Soul coach Mike Hohensee said. "We have an opportunity to jump to the top of our division in the next two weeks. This is a position we have talked about, and worked toward, ever since training camp. Even though our record may not reflect it, our commitment to our initial goals has not wavered."
Vena, who seesawed with Allgood earlier in the season, has started the Soul's last four games. For the season, he is last in the AFL in passing efficiency with 101 completions in 163 attempts for 1,526 yards and 31 touchdowns, with nine interceptions.
The backup quarterback position was filled Thursday when the team signed free agent Brandon Kirsch.
"Right now, Ryan Vena is our quarterback, and it's his job to keep," Hohensee said. "He gives us the best opportunity to win right now. Yes, he is still making some mistakes, but he's making plays for us."
For Allgood, the Soul received wide receiver Rodney Wright, who then was sent to the San Jose SaberCats for lineman Patrick Afif and future considerations.