What a difference three weeks makes.
The Soul were down and out. They sat at 3-4 and were searching for answers.
The defense wasn’t on the same page and the offense was performing well below the bar set to start the season. Now after three straight wins, the Soul (6-4) sit second in the Arena Football League standings, vying for the top spot after defeating the first-place Albany Empire last week.
The Soul turned their season around by defeating Atlantic City Blackjacks (4-6), whom they face this week in South Jersey (7 p.m. on Saturday at Boardwalk Hall).
“They want to get into the playoffs and we’d like to advance our position in the playoffs so we’ve actually approached the last four games like we’re in a playoff fight," said Soul defensive backs coach Bernie Nowotarski. " I expect it to be a heck of a battle.”
Since starting quarterback Randy Hippeard suffered a knee injury three weeks ago, Warren Smith, the Blackjacks’ dual-threat backup quarterback, has led Atlantic City to 71 points last week against the Washington Valor, and 61 points the preview week against Albany. Atlantic City was only averaging 39 points a game with Hippeard.
“Confidence is everything in this game," Soul head coach Clint Dolezel said. "Shane [Stafford, the Blackjacks offensive coordinator] has called a bunch plays for him. They are feeling very good about themselves. And they have a great shot to get into the playoffs if they win out.”
Dolezel says he has noticed a trend since Smith has taken over under center: Atlantic City has frequently resorted to onside kicks. In their 63-61 loss to the Albany Empire, they tried six onside kicks and failed each time.