Arizona Rattlers running back Mykel Benson was rushing into the end zone from one yard out – or so he thought. He fumbled at the goal line and Dwayne Hollis picked it up for the Philadelphia Soul and returned it all the way for a touchdown to give the Soul a 21-0 lead. They would go on to defeat the Rattlers to win ArenaBowl XXIX.
“I can’t even explain it. [I] felt disappointed,” Benson reflects on the loss. “I didn’t have the best game in my eyes so that made it worst. You do a lot work during the season and the last thing you want to do is lose a championship.”
Just three months later, the Rattlers left the Arena Football League to join the Indoor Football League. When asked why he didn’t join them, Benson said “They didn’t ask me to come back.”
Benson wound up signing with the Soul, the same team that broke his heart to end the last season. He told Inside the Arena that he joined the Soul for many reasons, including who their quarterback was.
“If you don’t have a quarterback that doesn’t know the game, you’re going to have a long season,” he said. Dan Raudabaugh had just come off a 2016 season in which he had thrown 4,303 yards and 101 touchdowns.
Benson wound up leading the league with 274 rushing yards and 23 touchdowns on the ground. Philadelphia would finish the season with a 15-1 record, defeat the Baltimore Brigade in the semifinals and advance to their second consecutive ArenaBowl game.
This time, they were to face a Tampa Bay Storm team who finished 2-14 in 2016, then cleaned house, hiring a new head coach in Ron James and signed quarterback Randy Hippeard and wide receiver Joe Hills.
After Raudabaugh threw a pick-six, the Soul found themselves down 20-7. Despite the deficit, Benson wasn’t completely worried. “[The] only feeling I had was to finish,” he said. “I can’t even lie I was a tab bit worried, but once we scored before halftime, I knew we had control of the game.”
They did indeed have control. Trailing 20-14 at the half, the Soul outscored the Storm 28-7 in the third quarter. They would hold off the Storm’s late surge and win ArenaBowl XXX by a final score of 44-40. A year after falling just short, Benson was on top of the world again.
“It was a big release,” he said on how he felt after the clock hit 0:00. “I can check this off my goal list.”
Benson also added he is unsure if he will re-join the Soul in 2018, but the offseason is long and all players are free agents after playing under one year contracts in 2017. Anything can happen.