Predators reclaim first-place in division with win over Soul


Danny Morales / Valencia Voice

Brandon Thompkins had six receptions for 59 yards and one touchdown while also returning a kickoff for a score.

ORLANDO — The Orlando Predators (7-5) defeated the Philadelphia Soul (10-2) for the first time this season 45-42 and are now positioned at the top of the South division.

Saturday’s win showed a different side of the Predators that hasn’t been seen for a few weeks. They were able to play it safe when it counted as well as take advantage of opportunities to score or get the ball back.

Learning from last weeks mistakes when Orlando turned over the ball five times, the Predators capitalized on the other teams mishaps recovering two forced fumbles, forcing a turnover-on-downs and making an interception.

“We wanted momentum in all forms to be in our favor, we wanted the onside kick to create more opportunities and more ball possessions,” said head coach Rob Keefe about the decision to go for the onside kicks. “But for them, they are a good team, they tried to take advantage of our aggressiveness and wanted to do a lot of double moves on us.”

The ability to maintain control of the ball and to capitalize on turnovers proved to be the key to success for the Preds.

On the Soul’s first drive of the game, Predator Nick Taylor recovers a forced fumble putting Orlando on the 1-yard line.

Orlando was able to make it on the board first with Brandon Thompkins breaks away from his defender in the corner of the endzone to catch a 4-yard pass from Bernard Morris to give Orlando an early 7-0 lead.

Yet another forced fumble on the Soul’s next drive is recovered by Predator Rod Isaac on Philadelphia’s 12-yard line. However, the ensuing pass from Bernard Morris to Greg Carr in the endzone is then juggled and intercepted by Philadelphia receiver LaRico Stevenson returning possession of the ball to Philadelphia.

Defensive back Rob Isaac completed the night with an interception, a fumble recovery and four tackles.

Orlando gained an early advantage with a blocked PAT by Mac Linebacker Calvin Fance giving the Preds a one point lead at 7-6.

After a Philly score, Bernard Morris erupted from under center blasting between the defense to make a 32-yard run on a designed quarterback keep to bring Orlando up 21-13.

Jones High School graduate and Preds quarterback Bernard Morris finished the game completing 17-33 passes for 174 yards and two touchdowns while also rushing for 79 yards and three more touchdowns.

A Soul touchdown to Marco Thomas, his second of the night, brought Philly within one, but the following kick is returned all the way back by Brandon Thompkins on a 56-yard return setting Orlando up 28-20 going into the locker room at the half.

Philadelphia came back from halftime with a successful onside kick that would give them the ball to start the half. Their drive would be ended abruptly however with Predator DB Rod Isaac making an interception in the endzone that Morris would turn into a scoring drive with Morris diving into the endzone to bring Orlando up 35-20 with ten minutes left in the third.

“We wanted to come out in the third quarter strong and sometimes that can be a let down cause when you are up on a team there is a big difference between playing to win and playing not to lose and we wanted to play to win.” said Keefe about their performance after the half.

Head coach Rob Keefe went out of character and played it safe in the fourth quarter and went for a 25-yard field goal on fourth down that would bring Orlando up 38-27. The three point differential would eventually be the difference. After a failed onside kick attempt, Philadelphia would score bringing the game to 38-35.

“When you are playing a good team, you can’t go on fourth down if tis not a manageable situation, so its my job to have a feel as a coach, its my job to save them.” said Keefe about the decision to go for the field goal.

The lights then went out early in the fourth quarter causing a 20-minute technical delay as the lights had to be warmed back up.

Coming back from the delay, Philadelphia scored twice in a row as well as scoring a successful two-point conversion that brought the Soul ahead for the first time in the game at 42-38.

“When they took the lead, for the first time in the entire game, how do we react? Is this pouting time, or bad body language time? Or is this time to be a man and execute when it’s time to perform.” said Keefe about the Soul’s first lead of the game.

The Predators then fought back with a touchdown and a successful onside kick that was recovered by Fance that would lead to another touchdown bringing Orlando up 45-42 at the buzzer.

After falling twice to the Soul in Week 1 and in Week 7, the Predators earned a much needed moral boost that will prepare them for next week’s game against the (9-2) Arizona Rattlers on June 20 in Phoenix.