Courtesy: Atlantic City Blackjacks Media Relations
ATLANTIC CITY- The Atlantic City Blackjacks (4-7) returned home after their four-game road trip to take on the Philadelphia Soul (7-4). The two teams put on quite the show for the 7,104 fans in attendance, the most this season. Player of the Game, Darius Prince, had 124 receiving yards with three touchdowns. The Offensive Player of the Game went to Blackjacks’ Warren Smith. Smith threw for 306 yards with five passing touchdowns and one rushing touchdown.
The Philadelphia Soul would have the opening possession in the first home game the Blackjacks have played in over a month. On third and short, Dan Raudabaugh connected with Darius Prince on the 31-yard pass for the first score of the game. Adrian Ferns would complete the two-point conversion on the play to take the early lead.
Warren Smith and the offense would be faced with a fourth down on their opening drive. The Soul came away with a quick turnover as James Romain was able to pickoff Smith for his eighth takeaway of the season. Raudabaugh wasted no time as he advanced the ball to the Blackjacks’ two-yard line on a 27-yard pass to Prince. Then Ferns was able to barrel his way into the end zone for the touchdown. The extra point was not handled correctly by the holder Patrick O’Brien and was not converted. The Soul jumped out to a quick 14-point lead.
After one completion, Smith found LaMark Brown who hustled his way down the field through multiple Soul defenders for the 40-yard touchdown. Mark Lewis attempted an onside kick which was recovered cleanly by the Soul. The first quarter would come to an end with the Soul leading by seven, 7-14.
Raudabaugh connected with BJ Bunn on the short pass who fought his way into the end zone for the score. Kenny Spencer’s kick went right into the upright and the extra point was missed again.
With his back against the goal line, Smith needed to march down the entire field for some points. He got some help from Antwane Grant as he was able to haul in the 29-yard pass to get the Blackjacks into Soul territory. Smith was then able to take it into the end zone himself on the three-yard rush. Lewis’ kick hit the upright and bounced out as the extra point was missed.
Lewis went for another onside kick was again cleanly recovered by Lonnie Outlaw of the Soul. Following a third down conversion, the defense stood tall and stopped the Soul three times from their one-yard line. On fourth down Raudabaugh’s pass was deflected and incomplete as they turned the ball over downs.
Smith got off his own one-yard line with a 15-yard pass to Brown who took a big hit to make the play. As the time ticked down to halftime, the Blackjacks burned all their remaining timeouts with 21.7 seconds remaining. After a short completion, Lewis rushed his way onto the field to attempt the field goal as time expired. The 25-yard kick was good as the Blackjacks trimmed the lead to a four-point deficit going into the half with a score of 16-20.
Smith and the offense would look to take their first lead of the game as they received the ball first in the second half. On his second pass of the drive, Smith found a wide-open Grant who made a nice move to get into the open field and eventually ran it all the way in for a 34-yard touchdown. The Blackjacks would take their first lead of the game as they led by three.
After a long drive by the Soul that ended in another one-yard rushing touchdown from Ferns, the Soul would take the lead back. Keiron Jones would finally get some time to return a kick as he picked up nine yards on the play.
The Blackjacks offense took to the field in search of the end zone once more. As Smith connected on four-straight passes, they were just six-yards away from the Soul’s end zone. Smith scrambled in his pocket and elected to take it himself as he leaped over a Soul defender but was met by another defender who stopped him on the one-yard line. The third quarter ended with Atlantic City trailing by a score of 23-27.
There was a false start penalty against the Blackjacks which backed them up to the six-yard line on third down. Smith fooled the defense as lineman Fred Ruff sneaked off the line to get open and caught the pass for the touchdown and the lead.
Raudabaugh hit Bunn on the slant route and after he was pushed into the boards the play was still alive and Bunn made it in for the 45-yard touchdown. The Soul retook the lead by four with a little under 12 minutes to play.
The Soul attempted their first onside kick of the game and returned it all the way back to the Blackjacks one-yard line. A Soul player was ruled offside which gave the Blackjacks the ball, a huge break for Atlantic City. On fourth down Smith was sacked in his own end zone resulting in a safety however.
With time not on the Blackjacks’ side, Lewis was forced to attempt an onside kick. Jones was able to jump on it first for Atlantic City on the 11-yard line. After a failed challenge by Clint Dolezel the call would stand, and Atlantic City would keep the ball. The Blackjacks would face another fourth down and Smith took the risk and went deep to Brown on the 31-yard touchdown.
Lewis would try for another onside kick and yet again the Blackjacks would recover it. On the ensuing play Smith tried for the quick pass but it was intercepted by Dwayne Hollis who took it in for the touchdown. Outlaw hauled in a big catch on the two-point conversion to give the Soul a seven-point lead with under three minutes to play.
Atlantic City had to be smart with clock management as to not score too fast. As the clock ticked under one minute to play, the ball sat on the Soul’s 21-yard line. Smith found Grant for his second touchdown of the game. A big decision loomed for Atlantic City, kick the field goal for the tie, or go for the two-point conversion and take the lead. They went for two and Grant got the handoff and leaped in for the conversion.
Jordan Williams returned the kick eight yards for the Soul. With 25 seconds on the clock, the defense had to come up big. Marvin Ross came up with a big pass breakup to keep the Soul in their own end. He was then called for pass interference on the next play, which was questionable. Raudabaugh then went deep to Prince for his second touchdown of the game, but the two-point conversion was missed.
The Blackjacks had one play reaming and they threw it deep and as it came down it was bobbled around and fell to the ground incomplete. The Soul would just edge the Blackjacks in the regular season series finale. The Blackjacks playoff lives are slim, but there is still a chance. The team is on their bye week and will play their final regular season game on Sunday, July 21 at 4:00pm at home against the Baltimore Brigade.