PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — The Philadelphia Soul will begin the quest to defend their Arena Football League title on Saturday when they open the 2017 campaign with a road game against the Tampa Bay Storm.
Soul head coach Clint Dolezel is looking forward to getting started.
“We broke camp on Saturday, are two weeks into it,” he tells KYW Newsradio. “Got some young talent but got a lot of the nucleus back, so I’m excited to see what we can do this weekend against Tampa.”
Listen to the entire interview with Soul head coach Clint Dolezel
There tends to be a lot of turnover on AFL teams, but the Soul have done a good job of keeping that talented nucleus together. Of course, this is a quarterback league and the Soul have one of the best in recent league history in Dan Raudabaugh back for another season. This will be his sixth year as the Soul’s quarterback. During his first five seasons in Philadelphia, he has thrown 516 touchdowns and just 75 interceptions.
“Every year it seems like I can put more and more on him as far as responsibility and meetings and things like that,” Dolezel says. “This year, he basically ran training camp meetings. I sat in the background and let him talk and when I wanted to chime in, I chimed in. But I let him run it, because eventually he’s going to be a coach in this league too and it’s important for him to be able do those things. He’s looked really good in camp. Came in in great shape.”
The Soul will be without a really good player on defense after lineman Jake Metz, the AFL’s Defensive Lineman of the Year last season, signed with the NFL’s Buffalo Bills. Dolezel says to help fill the gap left by Metz, they have a talented young defensive lineman they are anxious to see in game action named John Sheehy.
“He’s got a great build,” Dolezel says. “He’s got a great motor, he’s got good size and he’s picked the game up really fast.”
Tampa Bay went 2-14 in 2016. The Storm already with a game in the books this season, they beat Cleveland on the road this past Saturday, 46-40.
“New coaches, new quarterback, new players all the way around,” Dolezel says. “Obviously, they had a very good showing going into Cleveland and beating them. Cleveland’s a very talented football team. They looked a little out of sorts, there was no doubt about that, which most teams are their first game. That’s one thing they’ll have over us for sure is that they’ve got that one game under their belt, they’ve worked the kinks out. Hopefully, with our veteran status, we won’t be having to work too many kinks out during the game.”
The Soul and Storm are two of just three AFL teams returning from last year (along with Cleveland). Orlando, Jacksonville, Arizona, Portland and LA are all gone. Washington and Baltimore joined the now five-team league as expansion franchises this season.
Philadelphia and Tampa Bay get underway at 7:00pm on Saturday night.