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Saturday, August 17, 2013

ArenaBowl XXVI Preview: Philadelphia Soul vs Arizona Rattlers

For the first time in Arena Football League history, the ArenaBowl championship game will feature the same two teams from the year before. The defending champion Arizona Rattlers (15-3) will take on their ArenaBowl XXV adversaries, the Philadelphia Soul (12-6) again in front of a national audience on the CBS Television Network in ArenaBowl XXVI on Saturday, August 17. Kickoff is set for 1 p.m. ET.

Arizona punched a ticket to its third consecutive ArenaBowl with a 65-57 win over the Spokane Shock (14-4) on CBS Sports Network. Rattlers quarterback Nick Davila went 24-of-44 for 294 yards and eight passing scores. Receiver Tysson Poots hauled in nine catches for 96 yards and three touchdowns, while Rod Windsor and Maurice Purify each corralled a pair of touchdowns in the win.

On the other side of the bracket, Philadelphia claimed its second straight American Conference championship with a 75-59 victory over the Jacksonville Sharks (12-6). Soul quarterback Dan Raudabaugh connected on 18-of-27 passes for 220 yards and eight touchdowns with two interceptions on the night, while rookie wideout Ryan McDaniel led Philadelphia with seven catches for 88 yards and a pair of scores. Veteran receivers Tiger Jones and Larry Brackins each hauled in two touchdowns apiece as well, while the League’s all-time leading rusher, Derrick Ross, carried the ball 12 times for 54 yards and two scores

The Soul offense was once again among the League’s best all season, thanks in large part to record-breaking seasons from Ross and Jones. Philadelphia’s three-time All-Arena fullback became the League’s all-time leader in rushing yards, finishing the season with a career total of 1,773. He also set a new single-season franchise record with an AFL-high 35 rushing scores. Meanwhile, Jones became the first player in AFL history to record three consecutive 2,000-yard receiving seasons, finishing the regular season with 150 receptions for 2,121 yards and 37 touchdowns.

For Arizona, Davila earned Second Team All-Arena honors for the third consecutive season in 2013 after totaling 4,847 passing yards and 110 touchdowns. His favorite target, Windsor, also earned Second Team All-Arena honors after recording 110 receptions for 1,590 yards and 42 scores. Purify, who set an ArenaBowl record in 2012 with seven receiving touchdowns, missed much of the 2013 regular season due to injury.

Defensively, both teams have been outstanding all season. The Rattlers led the League with a plus-33 turnover margin in 2013, while the Soul allowed a League-low 46.6 points per game during the regular season. The Soul defense is spearheaded by a pair of All-Arena talents. Defensive end Bryan Robinson earned his second straight All-Arena nod in 2013 after tallying a franchise-record 11 sacks to go along with six blocked kicks. Defensive back Rayshaun Kizer earned Second Team All-Arena honors after totaling 82 tackles and nine interceptions on the year.

Arizona has a handful of top-flight defenders, including First Team All-Arena defensive back Virgil Gray, who set a new single-season franchise record with 15 interceptions in the regular season. Gray is joined by second-year man and Defensive Player of the Game in ArenaBowl XXV, Arkeith Brown, as well as seemingly perennial ArenaBowl combatant, Marquis Floyd.

The championship contest also features the two top kickers in the League. First Team All-Arena kicker Garrett Lindholm set new single-season League records with 158 PAT conversions and 167 PAT attempts with the Rattlers in 2013, while Soul kicker Carlos Martinez earned Second Team honors after converting on 6-of-7 field goals and 126-of-140 extra points.

Philadelphia and Arizona met in ArenaBowl XXV last season, with the Rattlers claiming a 72-54 victory in New Orleans. The two squads have squared off twice this season, with Arizona capturing victories in both contests. Saturday’s game at the Amway Center in Orlando will be televised live nationally on the CBS Television Network beginning at 1 p.m. ET. The ArenaBowl XXVI Postgame Show will be televised on CBS Sports Network immediately following the game.

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