Change continues to be at the forefront of the Arena Football League, now with a new playoff format.
“It’s a little bit different with the aggregate scoring, but the one way to control that is to win both games,” Soul quarterback Dan Raudabaugh said.
The third-seeded Soul (7-5) will face the second-seeded Baltimore Brigade (7-5) at the Wells Fargo Center at 6 p.m. Sunday in the first round of the AFL playoffs. The winner will be determined in a best-of-two-game series. Each team gets a home game, with the order determined by the higher of the two seeds. Baltimore chose Friday’s second game to be at home. If the teams split the series, the team with the higher aggregate score will go to Arena Bowl XXXI.
“Not only do we want to win, but we want to win by a large margin because Baltimore is a different place to play,” Soul coach Clint Dolezel said.
The AFL last season had five teams and the top four advanced to the playoffs, which featured a single-elimination format. The switch in format was made after the league dropped to four teams. Top seed Albany and No. 4 Washington will meet in the other first-round series.
The Soul split their four-game regular-season series with Baltimore, each winning two games at home. Soul quarterback Dan Raudabaugh and Brigade quarterback Randy Hippeard have earned MVP and offensive-player-of-the-year in previous seasons.
“When you go up against another quarterback who can punch it in the end zone every time, it forces you to step your game up and play at a high level, too,” Raudabaugh said. “I have a lot of respect for Randy and how he plays the game and how he’s been able to transition and continue to learn and get better every year.”
The key for the Soul in this series is to slow the Brigade’s high-scoring offense.
“It doesn’t matter how good you are. It doesn’t matter if you’re Tom Brady. If you’re up in their face and all around their feet, fighting and clawing at them, they’re not comfortable. No quarterback is comfortable when you’re all around them and clawing at them,” Soul line coach Jon Lyles said.
Last week, the Soul lost to the Albany Empire, 71-57. After a tied first quarter, the Empire outscored the Soul, 23-7, in the second quarter, and the Soul never recovered.
“You learn from the bad and you build on the good with every game whether or not you win or you lose,” Lyles said. “And our guys definitely reflected back and saw what we cannot do and as far as playing focused football. We have to stay within ourselves and not make mental errors.”
The Soul are two-time defending AFL champions. This is the team’s 13th season and seventh straight playoff appearance.
“This is why you play the game. This is for the playoffs and trying to get that ring,” Dolezel said.
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