Wounded Warriors the real heroes on the field

Posted: July 09, 2014

IKE REESE played quarterback. Brian Westbrook had a pass hit him in the face, and threw an interception of his own. Their team lost by 28 points. Things like this seldom happen, if ever, but they did on the turf at the Wells Fargo Center Monday night.

Westbrook and Reese, along with Gary Cobb, Mike Mamula and Vince Papale played flag football against the Wounded Warrior Amputee Football Team, which came in an undefeated 7-0. The veterans ran all over the NFL alumni, 63-35, but the score is not what mattered. As Westbrook said, it was an honor to play in a game with such meaning.

"You can't get a much better cause than this," Westbrook said. "You are talking about guys that have literally sacrificed their life and limbs to protect me and every other person in this country and for us to live free. For that, it is an honor, a great thing."

The game took place before the Soul hosted the Orlando Predators, but most of the excitement was in the Wounded Warrior game. The team, quarterbacked by ESPN's Sal Paolantonio at some points, demolished the team of former NFL players. Westbrook says the title of their team does not fit the way they played.

"They call themselves wounded warriors, but they didn't look wounded out there," Westbrook said. "They came out there and played hard. It is really, truly an honor for all us guys to be out here with guys who really served our country and protected the rights that we have."

Regardless of the nature of the game, it was the first time Westbrook has been on a football field in an organized capacity in some time. He got to play with guys he knew, and also took away the good feeling of helping a good cause.

"It is great to be back out there on the football field with some of the guys I played with, but it was more of an honor to be on the football field with those guys," he said.

The game was put together and approved by Soul majority owner Ron Jaworski. The praise rained down on Jaws from the members of the Wounded Warrior team and those who took part in the event. One person was not so thrilled with the former Eagles quarterback.

"He didn't prepare us," Westbrook joked. "We didn't practice all week. Actually, we didn't practice at all. We came out here and got whooped up on by guys that wanted it a little bit more than we did."

After the Wounded Warrior game, the Soul took the field to try to keep its playoff hopes alive. It needed a win, and that is what it got with a 42-35 victory over Orlando.

"It was not pretty, by all means, but sometimes you have to win it like that," Soul head coach Clint Dolezel said. "We have not won a lot of close games. It is good to get that roll in there."

Philadelphia controlled the game from the start, with LaRi Stevenson taking the opening kickoff back for a touchdown. The Soul never trailed, but also never led by more than 14 at any point in the game. The Predators scored just before halftime to make the score 28-28, where it stayed until Soul QB Dan Raudabaugh threw a 20-yard touchdown to Anthony "Tiger" Jones with the the clock reading 0:00 for the third quarter. Orlando added a touchdown in the fourth quarter, but never really threatened to tie or take the lead.

Raudabaugh did not have his best offensive showing, but did enough to get the job done. He was 14-for-25 passing for 193 yards and four touchdowns. Jones was his main target, accounting for seven catches and 103 yards and a touchdown grab. Markee White had three touchdown catches on the night.

The defense was the real difference in the game. The Soul came up with numerous stops on fourth down, halting any progress the Predators tried to make. The Soul allowed 314 yards to Orlando, but did not allow the Predators to score for over 28 minutes of the second half. Defensive back Rayshaun Kizer came up with three big pass deflections in the end zone that would have led to Predators touchdowns.

"That's kind of how it goes sometimes," Raudabaugh said. "You need someone to pick you up. The defense did a great job answering the bell. We took advantage at the end and were able to close it out."

The Soul improved to 8-8 on the season, while Orlando fell to 8-7. Philadelphia has a bye week before returning to the Wells Fargo Center on July 20 against San Jose.


On Twitter: @AndrewJAlbert01

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