Pressure cooker: Soul set sights on ArenaBowl XXV

Once Doug Plank did the Super Bowl Shuffle as an integral part of ‘Da Bears in 1986. Now he’s trying to make sure the Soul survive Friday night and advance to ArenaBowl XXV next week in New Orleans.

And before you ask, he says yes, a game like this — vs. the reigning champion Jacksonville Sharks to decide the American Conference — is different from all the rest.

“It’s like having a putting green in your backyard,” explained Plank, who sends the Arena Football League’s top-rated rushing team and seventh-best in the air against a Jacksonville team that needed a 51-yard field goal at the gun to punch its ticket here. “You probably can make all the five- to six-foot putts you want then. But when you go onto a golf course with people watching, and bet a couple of dollars on the putt, things change. It’s pressure. Playoffs are pressure. They’re totally different and they have a whole different impact on every single person as well as the coaches.”

The 59-year-old Plank, two-time AFL Coach of the Year, should know. After three trips to the “big game” as Arizona’s defensive coordinator, he took over the reins in Georgia and in his first season guided the Force to the 2005 ArenaBowl. He’s still looking for his first championship, though, knowing a win over the Sharks would give him yet another chance.

It would also send the 2008 champion Soul to its second ArenaBowl in four seasons, owner Ron Jaworski being one of few holdovers from that era. But first Philadelphia, which is riding a nine-game winning streak, must take care of the Sharks, a team they beat handily in two previous meetings, 56-38 here and 62-27 in Florida.

Plank knows better than anyone that won’t mean a thing when they take the field Friday at 8 p.m. on NFL Network.

“It’s a won and done situation,” said Plank, who has been forced to bring in a new kicker, Fabrizio Scaccia, due to an injury to Remy Hamilton. “Nobody really cares what your record is. The only thing that matters is today.”

And if they can take care of business, then it’s onto Bourbon Street.

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