The Soul imagine themselves hoisting the Arena Bowl XXXII trophy next month, but they first have to get past the opening leg of that journey.
What they hope will be a three-part journey will begin Sunday, when they face the Washington Valor, the defending Arena Football League champions.
Last year’s early playoff loss, against the Baltimore Brigade, provides more motivation for them to get the job done.
“We’re definitely amped up," Soul coach Clint Dolezel said. "It’s the playoffs, and that’s why you play the regular season. It’s to get to the playoffs and have that chance to win it, and we know we will do it if we play well.”
In the four-team playoff bracket, the third-seeded Soul (7-5) will have their chance at redemption at 3:30 p.m. Sunday, when they face the second-seeded Valor (also 7-5) at Capital One Arena.
It will be the first game of a home-and-home series. The second game will be at 4 p.m. Aug. 4 at the Wells Fargo Center. The winner will be determined based on the aggregate score of the two games and advance to play top seed Albany (10-2) or No. 4 Baltimore (7-5) in ArenaBowl XXXII, scheduled for Aug. 11.
Two weeks ago, the Soul were arguably the hottest team in the league, riding a four-game winning streak. Their secondary had whipped into shape, and the offense seemed to be cruising, posting its highest point total this season, 54, in two games over that period.
The Soul have since returned to their inconsistent ways, and now the Valor are arguably the hottest team.
The Soul will have to deal with dual-threat quarterback Arvell Nelson, the league leader in touchdowns with 73 (54 passing, 19 rushing). Nelson has used his 6-foot-5, 230-pound frame to punish opponents, leading the league in rushing yards with 226 (on 75 attempts).
The Soul came within a touchdown in their two previous losses to the Valor, as they struggled to apply pressure on Nelson. But they did sneak in a sack.