Soul not looking back before playoff game against Cleveland

Posted: August 01, 2014

SOUL DEFENSIVE back Rayshaun Kizer, one of the team's leaders, did not mince words when asked about tomorrow's road playoff game against the best team in the league.

Kizer does not care that Cleveland went 17-1, that they didn't lose a game at home and that they beat the Soul twice. He even brushed aside his own team's 30-point loss to Pittsburgh a week ago, chalking it up to self-destruction caused by internal pressure.

"We know that we're better than them," Kizer said. "It's a good matchup on paper, but we're better than them."

The Soul carried play for most of the two meetings with Cleveland. Led by 17 with less than a minute to go in the first; held a five-point lead with 2 seconds left in the second.

Somehow, Philadelphia managed to lose both.

The collapses were epic. Cleveland may have twice broken the Soul's heart, but they apparently did not break their spirit.

"We know we're better than them and that we can beat them," Kizer added. "We just hafta finish. If we finish, we should come out victorious. Yeah, we're better than them."

The Daily News was unable to reach any of the Cleveland players for their reaction to Kizer's assertion.

The Soul's inability to recover onsides kicks in the final minute cost them the first meeting against the Gladiators. Cleveland won the second with a 47-yard Hail Mary at the buzzer. Kizer was among the Soul defensive backs who collided on that play as the ball fell softly to wide receiver Dominick Goodman.

"I try not to watch the replay," Kizer said. "It's very discouraging. When you know you had them, and they throw a 47-yard touchdown pass . . . It was pretty much in the defense's hands to make a play and we didn't make it."

Remember, the field is only 50 yards long.

Goodman, a former teammate of Brent Celek at the University of Cincinnati, has been a particular problem for the Soul. He had 10 catches in both contests and a total of 281 yards. Soul coach Clint Dolezel said Goodman has the best hands in arena football.

"We have to keep the ball out of his hands," Kizer added, "and make the other two receivers beat us."

The cardiac Clevelanders went 17-1 to set the league record for regular-season wins. Not only did they beat the Soul twice on the last play of the game, but they won six other contests by seven points or less. Their only loss was at Pittsburgh, whose 15-3 record was tied with Arizona for second-best league-wide.

Philadelphia won the American Conference in 2012 and 2013, but went just 9-9 this year and backed into the playoffs after Tampa Bay lost to Cleveland on the final night of the regular season.

"Being the fourth seed, we've got nothing to lose," said Kizer, who led the Soul with nine interceptions. "Cleveland's the No. 1 seed and there's more pressure on them. We've been in that seat. Everybody's coming after you."

On Twitter: @EdBarkowitz

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