D'Orazio leads Soul to 1st Arena Bowl

July 12, 2008 7:39:21 PM PDT
Matt D'Orazio had himself a good week. The quarterback engineered a last second game-winning drive, won the Arena League's Most Valuable Player award, and capped it off by throwing eight touchdown passes to lead the Philadelphia Soul to its first ever appearance in the Arena Bowl with a 70-35 win over the Cleveland Gladiators on Saturday.

The Soul will play San Jose in Arena Bowl XXII in New Orleans on July 27.

D'Orazio completed 17 of 25 passes for 184 yards. Larry Brackins and Brent Holmes each caught three touchdown passes.

"I'm really fortunate, its not about me though, I'm just happy to be part of this organization," D'Orazio said.

Within the last year, D'Orazio had back surgery, and was cast off and finally released by Chicago after taking them to the Arena Bowl two seasons ago.

D'Orazio was brought on board by Philadelphia before the season to serve as a back up to veteran Tony Graziani, but when Graziani went down with an injury after week three, D'Orazio took over and led the team to 12 wins as a starter, including the playoffs. He threw 72 touchdowns passes with just four interceptions.

"I feel bad for Tony as an athlete, but Matt stepped up and just won games." Philadelphia head coach Bret Munsey said.

Robert Redd's 16-yard scoring catch cut the Soul's lead to 45-28 early in the third, but Mike Brown's highlight-reel kick return during which he hurdled over kicker Jason Ball on his way to the end zone gave Philadelphia a 52-28 lead and they never looked back.

D'Orazio found Arena League offensive player of the year Chris Jackson twice in the end zone and Wes Ours added a rushing touchdown.

Raymond Philyaw was shaky for Cleveland, going 25-for-49 for 303 yards with four touchdowns and two interceptions.

Philyaw had been stellar for the Gladiators throughout their playoff run, coming into the game with 16 touchdowns just one interception in two games.

"We got beat, it's that simple," Philyaw said. "They came to play on both sides of the ball."

The only thing that was more impressive than the Soul's postseason-franchise record 70 points was the stellar play of the defense, which stopped Cleveland's offense an amazing five times.

As a team, we just had too many lapses today," Cleveland head coach Mike Wilpot said. "You have to give their defense credit."

Redd was Philyaw's favorite target, finishing with 11 receptions for 152 yards and two scores.

Philyaw's 17-yard touchdown pass to Otis Amey at 6:28 in the first made it 7-7, but the Soul scored 28 of the next 42 points and led 35-21 at the half.

Brackins led Philadelphia with seven catches for 92 yards to go along with his three scores.

Marlion Jackson ran for a touchdown for the Gladiators.