Power coach Ron James received a special message on Facebook this week as his team prepared for its third and final meeting with the Philadelphia Soul.
"I got a message from [one of] the Philadelphia owners saying, 'You're going to lose this week,' " James said. "He posted it right to me, to get ready to lose this weekend. I'm not going to name him, but it's things like that that make you think you're not working hard enough and you've got to put in the time."
That preparedness paid off as the Power completed their first three-game series sweep of the Soul and ended the regular season with a franchise-record 12 consecutive victories after a dominating, 64-34, win against the Soul Saturday night at Consol Energy Center. It was exactly the tune-up the Power (15-3) wanted before the franchise's first playoff game at 2 p.m. next Sunday against the South Division champion Orlando Predators.
"You don't want to go into the playoffs ill-prepared or on a sour note, and I felt like the last couple games we played ... down to the level of our competition and we knew, coming in here, this would be a playoff atmosphere," James said.
The Power has been among the best defensive teams in the Arena Football League -- they came in ranked third, allowing 43.8 points per game -- and it showed as they stymied the potent Philadelphia offense throughout the first half. The Power held the Soul to seven points and came up with four defensive stops on five possessions, including defensive back Virgil Gray's team-record 10th interception of the season on Philadelphia's second possession.
Gray wasn't finished. He added his 11th pick on the Soul's first second-half drive, tying him with Chris LeFlore for the team's career interception record. Then Arvell Nelson undercut a quick out on the Soul's next drive, intercepted Philadelphia quarterback Dan Raudabaugh and returned it 10 yards for a touchdown to give the Power a 41-7 lead.
It was also the last pass Raudabaugh threw. He was replaced on the next drive by former Power quarterback Bryan Randall. Raudabaugh finished 11 for 35 for 102 yards, one touchdown and three interceptions.
"They came in here thinking they were ... going to turn the Power off," linebacker James Bryant said. "Well guess what? Not today. Our defense is still playing [like the] No. 1 defense and they had seven points in the first half. In the playoffs, we're going to play shutout football."
While the Soul offense was held in check, Philadelphia could not slow down Power quarterback Tommy Grady. Grady deftly dissected the Philadelphia defense, completing 15 of 23 passes for 136 yards and tossed seven touchdowns before he was replaced by Rayshaun Kizer in the fourth quarter.
Grady finished the regular season as the team record-holder with 429 completions in 710 attempts for 4,717 yards and 115 touchdowns. His third scoring throw of the game also moved him past Raymond Philyaw and into ninth place in the AFL all-time list for touchdown passes with 508. Grady finished the regular season with 512.
"Tommy comes to work every day ready and professional," said wide receiver Prechae Rodriguez, who caught four touchdowns against the Soul and 32 this season. "We rally around him."
Still, despite ending the regular season on a historic run, the Power already has refocused its attention on Orlando, a team it defeated, 62-61, May 24 in Orlando.
"It's a team that we know very well and the reverse is also true," James said. "We learned that they're a very tough team and it's a difficult place to play on the road."