Seattle slides by LA in opening game of LFL 10th Anniversary Season

Comprising the signature rivalry in the Legends Football League, it was only fitting that opening kickoff for their 10th anniversary season involved the gridiron goddesses of the Los Angeles Temptation and the Seattle Mist. Contested at Citizens Business Bank Arena in Ontario, California, known affectionately as “The Pirate Ship”, these two legacy franchises set an exciting tone for the season to come, with a tightly contested game that saw rivalries renewed.

When both rosters took to the field, fans could have been forgiven at the astonishing number of new faces. Among the defining themes of said season, the movement of star players throughout the league has altered the competitive structure, introducing an unprecedented opportunity for parity. As was quickly evidenced, the rosters of the Temptation and Mist were not immune to such compelling change.

From the outset, the host Temptation featured the legendary Anne “Showtime” Erler, a former franchise player for the Green Bay Chill and Saskatoon Sirens. Competing at the Defensive Back position, the statuesque Erler is reputed among the league’s greatest quarterbacks ever. Making her comeback after more than five seasons, she will certainly provide stability at the quarterback position should an injury befall starter Ashley Salerno.

Battling a smash mouth Mist defense that features Amber Camp and Shea Norton among others, Salerno refused to be intimidated. With the Mist entering the game as 9.5-point favorites, she employed a combination of toughness and scrambling ability, displaying a poise that was crucial in keeping the Temptation competitive against such odds.

Along with former Atlanta Steam competitor Nas Johnson, who inherited running back duties from Carmen Bourseau, the offense also featured the debut of Fuyuki Hamaguchi, the first Japanese player in league history. Just as prominent is the player that will certainly be the heartbeat of moving the offense. A former championship player with the Chicago Bliss, Hallie Jiskra, the new center for the Temptation, quickly displayed a rapport with Salerno.

Anchoring the Temptation defense was the determined Danielle Harvey, fearlessly challenging the Mist’s high octane offense, which featured a series of free agent acquisitions that were beginning their second stints with Seattle. KK Matheny, who led the Mist to a pair of Legends Cup titles replaced Michelle Angel, a Temptation alum who spent last season as Seattle’s starting quarterback, is orchestrating the offense. With Katie Whelan, newly inserted at the center position, experiencing an adjustment, it may need to be the biggest priority in keeping the offense efficient.

Of note, Matheny was among four free agent signings that departed the expansion Nashville Knights, who were led by Danika Brace, the first female head coach in LFL history. Joining Matheny are former LFL Most Valuable Player Randle, plus elite running backs Stevi “The Bull” Schnoor and Dominique Maloy, all back in Mist green after playing alongside Matheny with the Knights.

As the Mist employed their running game to full effect, fans and players at “The Pirate Ship” noticed another aspect in the franchise’s theme of reunion. Perhaps the most significant change was Chris Michaelson, a member of the LFL Hall of Fame, returning to the helm as Mist head coach. Replacing Eric Bellamy, who spent just one season in that capacity, he was visible on the sidelines, trying to keep his players motivated. Worth noting, former Mist legend Jessica Hopkins is also on Michaelson’s coaching staff, her acumen proving to be integral in a game that was a see-saw battle.

The final outcome would depend on which team made the fewest errors. Despite a valiant effort by the Temptation, they were not able to gain a win on home turf. Managing to emerge victorious by capitalizing on penalties, the Mist are likely to collide with the Temptation once again in the Western Conference Final.

Although some fans went on social media to voice their displeasure over some officiating calls, the season opener has proven to be a learning experience for the Temptation. Having held their own over a Mist offense that is considered the greatest in LFL history, mistake-free football shall be crucial in satisfying their ambitions of capturing their first title since 2011.

Undoubtedly, Harvey shall be one of the Temptation’s key players on defense as the season unfolds. Considering that Ogom Chijindu was released in the off-season, while the highly popular Megan Hanson departed for the Austin Acoustic, who qualified for the 2018 Legends Cup Finals, chemistry is destined to be critical for success on defense. The progress of rookie sensation TJ Anderson will also determine whether the defense shall be among the league’s finest.

Certainly, the Mist will be prepared to frustrate opposing teams throughout this season. While the club cannot succumb to the lofty expectations, any success may be pointed to another members in their distinguished class of free agent acquisitions. Landing the most prized player in the offseason, a legendary player with the Chicago Bliss that propelled the club into both popular culture and championship lore, Alli Alberts is now garbed in the Mist paraphernalia.

Having opposed the Mist in numerous Legends Cup Finals, she has also engaged in numerous on-turf wars against the Temptation. As a side note, her collision with Salerno during her rookie campaign remains the stuff of league legend. A consistent league leader in both receiving and defensive (interceptions, tackles) categories, Alberts’ familiarity in big game situations, bringing a highly effective versatility (a quality that Michaelson likes in his players), may prove to be the final piece of the Mist’s championship puzzle for 2019.

Chicago Bliss quarterback Heather Furr truly one of a kind

As the Chicago Bliss approach their 2016 season opener, with ambitions towards a fourth consecutive appearance in the Legends Cup finals, such effort may truly be an Amazonian task. Among their loyal fans, there is a tremendous sense of emptiness, sullen feelings, due to the absence of quarterback Heather Furr, whose offseason retirement shall certainly alter the balance of power.

While the LFL stands for Legends Football League, there is no question that Furr embodied the meaning of the word legend.
Definitely the greatest player to have donned the Bliss colors, Furr combined a breathtaking beauty and athletic ability that translated into pulse pounding results, while showing strong leadership and an unwavering loyalty to her team. While many of her contemporaries only played the quarterback position, Furr also excelled as a defensive back. Throughout her career, she would constantly make her presence felt on the league’s leader board in both offensive and defensive categories, enhancing her status as a franchise player.

One of the first superstars in franchise history, she not only helped elevate the quality of football throughout the league, she helped usher in a golden era for female football in Chicago. Along with Samantha Grisafe, a quarterback for the WFA’s Chicago Force, the two field generals consistently kept their club in contention for a championship. The pinnacle of their careers simultaneously took place in 2013, when both achieved the status of champion, as Chicago became the first city to win a WFA and LFL title in the same season.

The jubilation of 2013 would continue with the accomplishment of another title in 2014 for the Bliss. Led by Furr once again, the Bliss would become only the second team in league history to claim consecutive league championships. During this momentous time, Furr’s friendship and loyalty shone through.

Despite an injury nearly ending her career, Alli Alberts would make an amazing comeback, joining Furr in the rarified air of superstardom. Such a rise was not only admirable for her courage to come back after a crushing hit by Ashley Salerno, it was a turning point in franchise history. Alberts would prove to be the final piece in the championship puzzle for the Bliss. Like Furr, Alberts had the ability to excel on both sides of the field.

Such skill placed the Bliss in a position to dethrone the Los Angeles Temptation, and emerge as the league’s finest. Perhaps more importantly, it proved to be the beginning of a strong mutual respect between Alberts and Furr. Of note, Furr became more than just a mentor to Alberts, but a big sister as well. Alberts represented the future of the franchise and the potential to emerge as an ambassador for the league. There is no question that the presence of Furr enabled to both to excel without feeling burdened by the demands of leadership, complementing each other’s skills, yielding winning results.

Quite possibly the greatest quarterback in the history of the LFL, Furr was also a nominee for the league’s Hall of Fame, an honor that must be destined in her future. Part of her legacy in the game was the fact that she also brought instant credibility to LFL Canada. Playing alongside rival Anne Erler (of the Green Bay Chill), the two represented the meaning of dream team as they led the Saskatoon Sirens to the regular season title. Although they only played together in Saskatoon for one season, they certainly made an impression in the football-mad city.

Such an impression was also evident in Chicago as Furr was the only signal caller the franchise ever knew. Although Furr would enhance her status as a pop culture icon as the Bliss were featured on the docu-drama Pretty Strong, there was an ominous foreshadowing. Not only was Furr’s desire to start a family among the themes in the program, a revelation had been made that she briefly retired but returned due to the love of the game. While the program would prove to be her swan song, her legacy with the club shall always remain intact.

Suddenly, the new reality is that the club must move on without Furr, an heiress to her quarterbacking crown not yet definite. During the off-season, the club had acquired “Super” Sindy Cummings, classified as a free agent after the contraction of the Las Vegas Sin. If any quarterback had the potential to ease the transition, it would have been Cummings. After talented signal caller Nikki Johnson (who also played one season in LFL Canada with the Regina Rage) opted for the WFA, Cummings took the reins as a rookie and showed exceptional poise. With great charisma and a fan friendly demeanor, she provided a steady presence on offense for the Sin. The Bliss should have been the extension of her career, helping the Bliss transition into a new era, while allowing her a chance to win a title. Sadly, her “retirement” complicated the quarterbacking picture.

If there is one guarantee for the Bliss this season, it shall be that the organization shall deeply miss her. Although fans can only hope that one day Furr shall return to the game either as a coach or on-air personality, they will always be in gratitude to the exceptional skills that she displayed on the gridiron. Surprisingly, a member of the Bliss was assigned the number 15 this season; Sara Finn. One could argue that only one person in Bliss history deserves to wear the number 15 and that like Furr; the number should also join her in retirement.

All-star free agent class brings determined expertise to Omaha Heart

At the beginning of the 2015 Omaha Heart season, there was an ominous feeling as only three members from the 2014 roster had returned. The result was a disastrous first half of the season, suffering the worst loss in Legends Football League history, a 79-0 whitewash at the hands of the Atlanta Steam.

Despite such heartbreak and disappointment, there was a feeling of encouragement when some familiar faces were welcomed back into the fold; running-back SarahJane Thompson and center Sarah Robinson. Adding to this momentum was the announcement that three former league All-Stars were joining the Heart as free agent acquisitions.

Among them were two-way player Heather Hudson, whose contributions helped transform the Baltimore Charm into an Eastern Conference contender. Joining her were quarterback Anonka Dixon, whose last team was the Orlando Fantasy, and former Minnesota Valkyrie competitor Leekplay Paye.

While Robinson and Paye helped anchor a defensive line that never truly recovered from the loss of Jacqueline “Wolverine” Smyth (among the league’s top five tacklers in the last two seasons), Hudson was found in the defensive backfield with the likes of Amanda Hogan and Jenna Holt. In their debut together, which resulted in a 40-0 loss against the Chicago Bliss, the unit managed the highlight of the game as they were able to stop Heather Furr five yards short on a fourth down possession.

It certainly resulted in a roar of approval from the loyal fans at the Ralston Arena. Despite some other signs of improvement on defense, it was the offense that struggled.

Considering that there was little time to learn the offense, Anonka Dixon struggled miserably. Compounded by the fact that the league’s defenses have evolved into a much tougher and faster unit, raising the level of brutal efficiency, Dixon’s three-year absence showed. With due deference to the Heart, the acquisition of a second quarterback such as Angela Rypien or Arika Lynne, who both played in starting roles last season may have alleviated the woes.

Unfortunately, the Bliss defense stymied Dixon, who only managed to complete one of six passes on the night. Turnovers continued to be the story on offense as Dixon was intercepted by Alli Alberts on their second possession. As a side note, Alberts would also intercept her in the second half. Hudson provided some heroics on offense, providing a valiant performance on both sides of the ball. Following the interception, she managed a fourth and goal rushing attempt that placed the Heart just two yards short of the end zone, which would have been their first touchdown all season. Hudson also accounted for Dixon’s only successful completion in the game, an eight-yard passing play.

On the opposite end of the field, the Bliss used the opportunity to experiment with their passing game, a direct rebuttal to the critics who claimed the Bliss were too dependent on the running game. Going to the air 71 percent of the time, quarterback Heather Furr completed 15 of 25 passes, while successfully connecting on four touchdown passes. In a superlative second half, she tossed touchdown passes to Chabria Survillion, Alli Alberts, and rookie Stephanie Murry.

Another benefit of the Bliss opting for the passing game was the discovery of rising star Alli Alberts showing versatility with a strong receiving performance. Logging six receptions for 60 yards, she has established herself as a reliable receiver should the Bliss require such an option in the postseason as their victory clinched the Eastern Conference title.

In the aftermath of a fourth consecutive loss, the one positive to be gained is the fact that the Heart attempted to salvage their season with the acquisition of star talent. Not only did it display a commitment to improve their roster, but it was a show of gratitude towards a fan base that is loyal to the core. With close to a month to prepare for the next match, there is a sense of optimism that better performances are ahead. Although the postseason is officially out of reach, the Heart may be at their most dangerous. Possibly employing a “nothing left to lose” mentality, it shall provide the opportunity for younger players to obtain more experience while obtaining valuable insight from the acquired all-stars. Of note, the Heart’s next match shall take place on July 10th against the Atlanta Steam, while a rematch with the Bliss takes place on August 8th.

Kim Perez an underrated superstar for two-time champion Chicago Bliss

With a presence that has contributed to the Chicago Bliss capturing two consecutive league championships, Kim Perez has established herself as a key member of its roster. In each season that she has played with the Bliss, they managed to successfully navigate their way to the pinnacle of their sport.

On a Bliss team that features elite quarterback (and franchise player) Heather Furr, along with the very powerful running back, Chris’Dell Harris, who bulldozes through opposing defenses almost effortlessly, it would be easy to overlook Perez. Compounding this is the fact that the club also features several younger players, including Conference All-Stars Alli Alberts and Hallie Jiskra, both possessing girl next door looks.

Quite possibly the most underrated superstar not just on the Bliss, but in the entire league of play, Perez quietly goes on, with an ethereal serenity and a calm demeanor that erupts into punishing play on the field, always giving her team a chance to win. Statistically, Perez has emerged as one of the league’s leaders in tackles for the last two seasons. With results that speak for themselves, Perez is truly an essential (and perhaps invaluable) component on a top-ranked Chicago defense.

Also a talented softball player, Perez is one of many two-sport stars that currently grace the gridiron. Having manned centerfield for the University of the Cumberlands Patriots in Williamsburg, Kentucky, she graduated with program records for hits and stolen bases. During the 2006 campaign, she was recognized as an honorable mention for the 2006 and 2007 Mid-South All-Conference Team. Her senior season (2007) may have been her finest. Perez led the Patriots with 49 hits and 20 stolen bases, displaying a great combination of speed and skill at the plate. This was complemented by registering 56 total bases.

While at Cumberlands, she also delved into flag football, a sport that continues to grow in popularity with young women throughout college campuses in North America. Representing the university at numerous tournaments, she would prove to be a key factor in their success. In one tournament, she would score a touchdown against the Pink Ladies from the University of Virginia at Wise in a 12-0 win. The second round game saw Perez receive two touchdown passes, contributing to a solid 36-12 win. By tournament’s end, Perez was named Tournament MVP while leading Cumberlands to a victory.

Such success would form the beginning of a solid football career. From 11-on-11 outdoor football to indoor glories with the Chicago Bliss, it was certainly no coincidence that the Bliss would capture two titles in her first two years there.

Bringing strong versatility to the gridiron, Perez can excel at both the linebacker and defensive back positions. While Perez has mentioned online that she is more comfortable at linebacker, her ability to compete at either position allows the coaching staff the luxury of adding creativity to their defensive attack.

Of note, Alberts and Furr are the only players on the Bliss that compete on both sides of the football. Taking into account Furr’s value as quarterback (at which she is the league’s finest), injury can be avoided by having her play exclusively at the position against certain opponents. Such a move may prove crucial in the club’s ambitions towards a third consecutive championship.

Knowing that Perez can adequately fill in at the defensive back position (where Furr is just as talented) certainly adds to her possible perception by fans that she is the team’s good luck charm. Although she is a naturally born athlete, one could argue that she was destined to wear the Bliss colors.

Working in Champaign, Illinois, a chance encounter resulted in Harris walking into Perez’s place of work. Quickly, a conversation about sport developed with Perez discussing her initial sojourn into football, especially her experiences in a full contact 11-on-11 league. An intrigued Harris would invite Perez to a tryout, setting the stage for a key piece in assembling the Bliss’ championship puzzle.

Articulate and college-educated, the gridiron glories have not only extended the athletic endeavors of Perez, but it has served to introduce her to an entire new fan base. A great competitor and an ambassador for the game, the Bliss have a gem in Perez, whose efforts certainly make the dream of three championships in a row very real.

Postgame beer celebration adds to status of Alli Alberts as one of coolest athletes in female sport

As one of the most popular players for the Chicago Bliss, Alli Alberts only added to her legend. In the aftermath of a 49-0 whitewash of the Omaha Heart, she was bestowed the recognition of the game’s Most Valuable Player. Running to the 50-yard line, Alberts cracked open a beer and started chugging.

With a rousing roar of approval from the hometown fans on-hand at Toyota Park, Alberts’ antics made news throughout the round of sports media outlets, while fans went to social media with their approval. A jubilant Alberts thanked her fans via social media for their support.

Donning number 1 with the Bliss, Alberts is certainly on her way to becoming the top-draw in indoor female football. While it would surprise casual fans to know that she is a dentist (her patient list is bound to increase), her girl-next-door looks and winning smile are complemented by a remarkable series of athletic talents that led her to being a Western Conference All-Star selection in 2014.

Along with quarterback Heather “Rockstar” Furr, the two are known on social media as “The Blonde Terminators.” Considering that both are the only members of the Chicago Bliss that play both offense and defense, these iron women are building the momentum towards the Bliss claiming a third consecutive league title.

As a side note, Furr had her own beer experience during a match against the now defunct Green Bay Chill back in July 2014. In celebration of a touchdown, a fan handed her a beer. Sipping it with helmet on, the event would be covered by the New York Daily News. As a side note, Furr also works as a bartender at Murphy’s Bleachers, the Wrigleytown bar.

Meanwhile, Alberts’ jubilation is only adding to the Omaha Heart’s desolation. After suffering a 79-0 blowout loss to the Atlanta Steam, the Heart’s early postseason hopes are quickly being dashed with another trouncing defeat. Taking into account that the Bliss have now moved to the Eastern Conference this season, the thought of playing them two more times is not an appealing thought for the Heart.

While the consumption of alcohol may never be seen on an NFL field, Alberts’ celebratory drink reminded fans that sport is meant to be about enjoyment and celebration. For Canadian sports fans, it brought back memories of the 2010 Vancouver Winter Games, when Canadian women’s ice hockey players took to the ice after their gold medal win.

Considering how many male athletes have been featured in beer commercials, Alberts definitely is worthy of such consideration. The website made the excellent suggestion that her consumption of beer on the field could make for an interesting marketing idea. As female football fans (and players) are quickly becoming the fastest growing segment of the game, Alberts proves that she is more than just a heart throb, but just one of the guys as well.