Staying in the City of Brotherly Love – The Philadelphia Soul are only going to have to go out on the road one more time this season. After beating the Washington Valor in Week 15, the Soul have clinched home field advantage throughout the playoffs and will host ArenaBowl XXX should they win their semifinal playoff game at the Wells Fargo Center on August 12. This will be the fourth time the Soul have finished with the best record in the AFL. They tied the Arizona Rattlers for the best mark in 2016 at 13-3 (but were the No. 2 seed in the playoffs), won the outright regular season title in 2012 by going 15-3 and did so first in 2008 when they went 13-3. Each time Philadelphia finished with the best record in the league, it went to the ArenaBowl, winning it on two of the three occasions.
Big Game for the Kicking Game – The Baltimore Brigade and Tampa Bay Storm had one of the wilder nights you’ll ever see in the kicking game. The Storm had three kick returns for touchdowns (more on that in a moment), Baltimore had a kickoff that was returned by Brandon Thompkins, fumbled and advanced another 21 yards by Varmah Sonie, and then an onside kick attempt by Pat Clarke traveled just eight yards, was kicked backwards into the Baltimore end zone and was awarded to Tampa Bay at the Baltimore 5-yard line. Little-known Rule 5.2d came into play there for Joe Pester’s crew.
“If a short free kick never goes 10 yards and ends up back in the Kicking team endzone untouched by the receiving team, recovered by the kicking team, it will not be a safety. The placement will be the Receiving team ball on the Kicking team 5-yard line.”
Now you know!
Back-To-Back (Then All the Way Back Again!) – Michael Lindsey’s kick return for a touchdown in the second quarter was nothing out of the ordinary for the Storm. Kendrick Ings’ 55-yard return for a touchdown on Tampa’s very next kick return was. It marked the first time that two different men scored touchdowns on kickoff returns since June 27, 2015 when Alvin Ray Jackson and LaRoche Jackson both returned kicks for touchdowns for the Jacksonville Sharks. Both of the Jackson’s “kick sixes” were of the onside kick variety. The last time two different teammates scored 50+ yard kick return touchdowns was on May 17, 2014 when P.J. Berry and Kelvin Rodgers each had 57-yard kick returns for scores for the San Antonio Talons.
But the Storm weren’t done there! Ings had a kick return for a touchdown in the third quarter as well, giving him the first two-touchdown game for a kick return since Brandon Thompkins did so last year for the Orlando Predators.
The last time a team had three kick returns for touchdowns in the same game was in 2006 when the Arizona Rattlers took three to the house at Orlando. This was the eighth time in AFL history a team had three or more kick returns for touchdowns. The record is four scores by the New England Seawolves against San Jose in 2000, a game in which Anthony Derricks set single-game records that still stand today for kick return yards (336) and kick return touchdowns (4).
Ings in the End Zone –Ings may as well have just lived in the end zone in Week 15. He had a total of four scores, two as a receiver and two as a kick returner. The last time a player had two kick returns for touchdowns and at least two scores as a receiver was Duane Brooks, who pulled off the double for the old Portland Thunder on June 7, 2015. Ings and Lindsey also became the first pair of AFL players since Jared Jenkins and Reggie Gray of the 2013 Chicago Rush to each have both a kick return for a touchdown and a receiving touchdown in the same game.
Coming Out Hot – The Soul offense was nothing short of perfect in the first half against the Valor in Week 15. Dan Raudabaugh went 15-of-15 in the first half and finished his streak of consecutive completions at 16, matching the mark Shane Carden had earlier this year for the Brigade against the Cleveland Gladiators. At one point, Raudabaugh was 24-of-26 (92.3%) before an interception and an incompletion ruined his chance at breaking the all-time record for completion percentage in a game. The “Red Rocket” had to settle for going 26-of-30 (86.7%) for 330 yards and an AFL season-high nine touchdowns.
Big Play’s Big Game – The Brigade might have lost to Tampa Bay in Week 15, but it surely wasn’t from a lack of effort from Reggie Gray. “Big Play” came up with 11 receptions for 72 yards and four touchdowns. Gray is now tied for the 12th most receiving touchdowns in AFL history with Cory Fleming. Gray joined the 1,500-point club with 1,514 for his career, making him one of the three active players (T.T. Toliver, Mark Lewis) who have reached that career milestone. Furthermore, Gray moved past Dominick Goodman and Gary Compton on the all-time receptions list and is now 17th all-time in that category.
Most Receptions in AFL History
15: Darryl Hammond: 792
16: Hunkie Cooper: 776
17: Reggie Gray: 755
18: Dominick Goodman: 751
19: Gary Compton: 750
Most Receiving Touchdowns in AFL History
10: Mike Horacek: 252
11: Siaha Burley: 247
T-12: Reggie Gray: 235
T-12: Cory Fleming: 235
1,500-Point Club in AFL History
1: Barry Wagner: 2,490
2: Damian Harrell: 2,172
3: Eddie Brown: 2,076
4: Chris Jackson: 2,052
5: T.T. Toliver: 2,026
6: Donovan Morgan: 1,782
7: Tiger Jones: 1,774
8: James Roe: 1,728
9: Remy Hamilton: 1,655
10: Rod Windsor: 1,624
11: Steve Videtich: 1,597
12: Siaha Burley: 1,584
13: Mike Horacek: 1,558
14: Mark Lewis: 1,549
15: Reggie Gray: 1,514
Toliver Tackles 16,000 – T.T. Toliver had his best game as a member of the Valor in Week 15, amassing five receptions for 82 yards and two touchdowns. On a 17-yard touchdown strike to open the game, Toliver became the first man in AFL history and the third in the history of major professional football to get to 16,000 career receiving yards.
Most Receiving Yards in Major Professional Football History
1: Jerry Rice (NFL): 22,895
2: Geroy Simon (CFL): 16,352
3: T.T. Toliver (AFL): 16,071
4: Terrell Owens (NFL): 15,934
5: Randy Moss (NFL): 15,292
6: Isaac Bruce (NFL): 15,208
7: Milt Stegall (CFL): 15,153
8: Damian Harrell (AFL): 15,134
9: Tony Gonzalez (NFL): 15,127
Happy Anniversary, Charm City! – Week 15’s games played on July 15 happened to correspond exactly with the first AFL game ever played in Baltimore. The Maryland Commandos played a neutral site game at the venue then called Baltimore Arena (now Royal Farms Arena) on July 15, 1989 against the Detroit Drive. The Commandos didn’t fare well that day, getting beaten 39-7. The Brigade obviously didn’t do well either with their loss to the Storm.
AFL Week 15 Odds and Ends
-Joe Hills broke the record for consecutive games with a receiving touchdown by logging his 79th game in a row with a score.
-Hills (8,664) jumped over Hunkie Cooper (8,599) and Jason Willis (8,613) into 20th place on the AFL’s all-time receiving yards list.
-Randy Hippeard (318) moved past Erik Meyer (312) into 24th place in AFL history in career touchdowns.
-Kendall Montgomery (Tampa Bay) and J.R. Collins (Washington) both recorded their first career sacks.
-Justin Lawrence logged his first career two-sack game.
-The Soul forced five turnovers against Washington, extending their streak of consecutive games with a turnover to 26, the longest active streak in the AFL.
-Shaun Kauleinamoku logged a four-touchdown game for the Soul, his fourth game with four or more touchdowns in his career.
-Reggie Gray’s four-touchdown game for the Brigade was his first since 2015 and the 20th of his career.
-The 234 combined points between the two games marked the second-highest of the season. In Week 5, Philadelphia, Cleveland, Tampa Bay and Baltimore combined to score 253 points.
-The Storm ran just 28 offensive plays against Baltimore in Week 15, tying the season-low for a team in a game in 2017.
AFL Week 15 Accolades
Top Passing Performances
Dan Raudabaugh (Philadelphia) – 26/30, 330 Yards, 9 TDs, 1 INT
Shane Carden (Baltimore) – 30/44, 247 Yards, 6 TDs, 2 INTs
Randy Hippeard (Tampa Bay) – 14/22, 232 Yards, 7 TDs, 0 INTs
Sean Brackett (Washington) – 23/37, 216 Yards, 4 TDs, 2 INTs
Top Receiving Performances
Shaun Kauleinamoku (Philadelphia) – 10 Receptions, 126 Yards, 4 TDs
Kendrick Ings (Tampa Bay) – 4 Receptions, 115 Yards, 2 TDs
Darius Reynolds (Philadelphia) – 6 Receptions, 111 Yards, 2 TDs
Brandon Thompkins (Baltimore) – 11 Receptions, 99 Yards, 2 TDs
T.T. Toliver (Washington) – 5 Receptions, 82 Yards, 2 TDs
Top Rushing Performances
Shane Carden (Baltimore) – 3 Carries, 25 Yards, 1 TD
Sean Brackett (Washington) – 4 Carries, 25 Yards, 1 TD
T.T. Toliver (Washington) – 1 Carry, 12 Yards
Rory Nixon (Baltimore) – 4 Carries, 10 Yards, 1 TD
Mykel Benson (Philadelphia) – 4 Carries, 8 Yards, 1 TD
Top Defensive Performances
James Romain (Philadelphia) – 6 Tackles, 2 Forced Fumbles, 1 INT
Kent Richardson (Philadelphia) – 7.5 Tackles, 1 Fumble Recovery, 1 INT
Joe Goosby (Philadelphia) – 4.5 Tackles, 1 Forced Fumble, 1 Recovered Fumble
Justin Lawrence (Philadelphia) – 2 Tackles, 2 Sacks, 1 Forced Fumble
LaRoche Jackson (Tampa Bay) – 7.5 Tackles, 1 INT