for this game

Soul down SaberCats, claim first Arena title

Jul 28, 2008 - 4:55 AM NEW ORLEANS (Ticker) -- Matt D'Orazio and the Philadelphia Soul made sure history did not repeat itself in ArenaBowl XXIII.

D'Orazio threw seven touchdown passes and ran for another score as the Soul secured their first league title with a 59-56 victory over the defending champion San Jose SaberCats on Sunday afternoon.

Chris Jackson caught three scoring passes for the Soul (14-3), who booked their trip to the Big Easy with a 70-35 demolition of the Cleveland Gladiators at the Wachovia Center two weeks ago.

It was the first professional championship for Philadelphia's beleaguered sports scene since the 76ers claimed the NBA title in 1983.

"All I could think about was the Philadelphia curse," Soul coach Bret Munsey told the Philadelphia Inquirer. "I hope this clears the way for (76ers coach) Mo Cheeks and (Eagles coach) Andy Reid, and those guys. Now we can win championships in Philadelphia. I hope that takes care of everything."

To claim its first title, Philadelphia had to go through powerful San Jose, which made its second consecutive appearance in the ArenaBowl and fourth in seven seasons. Last season, the SaberCats won their third league title by defeating the Columbus Destroyers.

They could not repeat the feat Sunday thanks to D'Orazio, who also led the Chicago Rush to the title in 2006. This season, he paced the AFL in passer rating (131.3) and completion percentage (72.4) en route to winning the league's Quarterback of the Year Award.

D'Orazio completed 26-of-43 passes for 302 yards in this one, connecting with Jackson - the AFL Offensive Player of the Year - once in each of the first three quarters. The final one was a 32-yard score to give Philadelphia an insurmountable 44-27 advantage with 7:56 left.

Jackson, who led the league in touchdowns with 49, caught 11 passes for 146 yards for the Soul, whose owner, rocker Bon Jovi, led the raucous celebration as time wound down.

The euphoria also can be attributed to Philadelphia's defense, which kept San Jose relatively at bay in the high-scoring Arena league.

"We just went out there and gave it our all and played total team defense," said Soul defensive tackle Gabe Nyenhuis, who had a sack and a forced fumble and was named Defensive Player of the Game.

Mark Grieb tossed six touchdown passes for San Jose (11-6), which failed to become the first team since the Tampa Bay Storm (1995-96) and only the third club to win four ArenaBowls, joining Tampa Bay (five) and Detroit (four).

The SaberCats made it interesting in the final seconds, scoring 14 points in 11 ticks to fall just short of a remarkable comeback within the final minute.

"We wanted to come out and play hard, but we made the game closer than what it should have been," Soul defensive back Eddie Moten told the newspaper. "But what's done is done. We're champions."