Predators drop season opener to Philadelphia Soul

ORLANDO — The strength of the defense was tested as the Orlando Predators fell to the Philadelphia Soul 70-63 during their season opener at the Amway Center Sunday Night.

After trading touchdown for touchdown throughout the game Orlando went up 63-62 with a catch from Larry Brackins in the endzone with 36 seconds remaining in the game. Philadelphia was quick to answer however with a 6-yard pass to Ryan McDaniels that would raise the Soul to 70-63 with only 12 seconds left.

The Predators were unable to make much of that twelve seconds and fell to the Soul to start their season 0-1 at their new home of the Amway Center.

“I think we mismanaged the clock. Everytime we win it’s the players, every time we lose, its my fault,” said head coach Rob Keefe about the close loss. “When they had no time outs we should have wasted the clock more, but I thought the defense could stop them. I would be more upset if we got our butts kicked cause then I’d be worried, but we let them off the hook.

“I know we are going to grow from this, sometimes you have to lose a battle to win the war.”

Former Tampa Bay Storm quarterback took the start for Orlando tonight with two days notice because Bernard Morris was out due to a finger injury on his throwing hand.

Hippeard completed 20-of-25 passes for 233 yards, eight touchdowns, and one interception while running in one more.

“Hippeard definitely deserved it [the start], but its a tough competition and when you throw in a knick or a bruise in that can be a big deal,” said Keefe on Hippeard starting under center. “But, I thought he played good, he had one mess up there when he threw into coverage for a touchdown, but hey thats on us as coaches, we have to prepare him better.”

Returning Predator Kendal Thompkins made a big impression on Sunday catching six passes for 78 yards and two touchdowns, both in the third quarter.

Orlando won the coin toss and chose to defer to the second half and to kickoff to start their season opener. Philadelphia then scored on their first drive with a 17-yard pass to Ryan McDaniels from Dan Radabaugh to gain the lead 6-0 over Orlando.

Soul kicker Carlos Martinez was brought down during the extra point and had to be walked off the field. Martinez did not return and the team was forced to attempt two-point conversions and onside kicks for the remainder of the game.

A kickoff from Philadelphia kicker Bryan Randall was deflected off of Arness Ikner that was then picked up by Xavier Boyce and brought back for a touchdown to give the Soul an early advantage scoring twice in a row.

The teams entered the locker room at the half tied 28-28 and Orlando came back from the half to score on their first drive attempting to set momentum in their favor.

The Predators were able to score three times in the third quarter versus Philadelphia’s two scores to put them up 49-42 going into the fourth quarter.

After 19-yard touchdown by Marco Thomas from Raudabaugh that would lessen that gap to 49-48, Hippeard was intercepted by Boyce who returned it for a pick-six with just over nine minutes remaining to bring the Soul up 56-49.

Orlando was unable to hold on to the lead in the last seconds and fell dramatically to the Soul 70-63.

“We did some good things, and we did some not so good things, its a building and learning experience but we’re back at the Amway and thats big for us.” said Hippeard on the loss. “We got a short week and we’ll look at film tomorrow, get it out of our system and focus on Jacksonville.”

With the losses of Jacksonville and Tampa Bay this week, Orlando doesn’t fall in the standings and they will all go into next week on an even playing field.

The Predators return to the arena field Friday, April 3 to face division rivals the Jacksonville Sharks in Jacksonville.