Monique Gaxiola goes from Mortaza Award recipient to newest star in LFL Australia

One of the pioneers in LFL US, Monique Gaxiola’s greatest legacy in the sport may be the three championships she earned with the Los Angeles Temptation. As part of the first dynasty in LFL history, the 26 year-old is an energetic and remarkable athlete whose star shines brightly with every season.

After a 2013 campaign that saw the Temptation unable to make it four titles in a row, there was a silver lining for the Middle Linebacker. Despite a heartbreaking postseason loss to the eventual champion Chicago Bliss, she was named to the Western Conference All-Fantasy Team.

Photo credit: Mark Rigney, Obtained from: https://www.facebook.com/MoniqueGaxiolaLFL

Photo credit: Mark Rigney, Obtained from: https://www.facebook.com/MoniqueGaxiolaLFL

An even bigger honor would follow as Gaxiola earned the prestigious Mortaza Award. Recognizing hard work, sportsmanship and dedication, it was a well-deserved accomplishment in her storied career that complements her 2011 Comeback Player of the Year Award.

During the 2013 Los Angeles Temptation season, she logged 14.5 tackles, of which 10 were solo efforts. Complemented by five tackles for losses and an interception returned 36 yards for a touchdown, the defensive stalwart was a key factor in a punishing defense that gave up 87 points (third lowest in LFL).

Image by: Hans Gutknecht

Image by: Hans Gutknecht

Gaxiola (known affectionately as The Gax) is now taking her remarkable talents and leadership skills down under. With LFL Australia beginning in December 2013, she will be one of the newest members of the New South Wales Surge.

In December 2012, Gaxiola and LA teammate Danielle Harvey vacationed in Australia and had the opportunity to visit a training sessions that the Surge held. Chloe Butler, the first Australian woman to compete in LFL US played with Gaxiola on the Temptation.

Celebrating a league title win, Photo by Ethan Miller, Getty Images

Celebrating a league title win, Photo by Ethan Miller, Getty Images

With Butler one of the big stars on the Surge roster, the opportunity to play again with Gaxiola relieves the burden of leadership on her. For fans in Australia, they will have the opportunity to see why she is one of the best players in LFL’s history. Although there will be other US players competing in Australia, Gaxiola’s reputation as a motivator and dedicated to conditioning could result in winning the first-ever LFL Australia championship.

Elite quarterback Heather Furr looking to win her first-ever LFL Championship

Having pulled off a remarkable upset against the undefeated Seattle Mist, Heather “Rockstar” Furr is looking to stake her claim as the greatest quarterback in the LFL. Playing in the 2013 LFL Championship Game versus the Philadelphia Passion, Furr is looking for her first-ever title.

Coming off a 2012 LFL Canada season where her club team, the Saskatoon Sirens was defeated by the BC Angels in the league’s inaugural title game, Furr has an insatiable hunger to claim the elusive championship.

Scrambling against the Minnesota Valkyrie (Image from: http://www.lflus.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/i-5rT8RJM-XL.jpg)

Scrambling against the Minnesota Valkyrie (Image from: http://www.lflus.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/i-5rT8RJM-XL.jpg)

The highlight of that 2012 campaign was the opportunity to play with rival quarterback Anne “Showtime” Erler of the Green Bay Chill. While Erler took most of the snaps behind center, Furr showed true team spirit by competing at the wide receiver position, emerging as one of the finest.

Ironically, Furr’s path to the 2013 LFL postseason would come in a contest against Erler’s Green Bay squad. With emotions running high, Furr emerged as the victor, leading the Bliss to a 27-18 road victory on August 10.

Getting ready to hand off the ball versus the Las Vegas Sin (Image from: http://www.lflus.com/games/las-vegas-sin-vs-chicago-bliss/attachment/directorleague-photographer-153)

Getting ready to hand off the ball versus the Las Vegas Sin (Image from: http://www.lflus.com/games/las-vegas-sin-vs-chicago-bliss/attachment/directorleague-photographer-153)

Furr’s season is one that has been defined by leadership and character. After a devastating home opener on April 19 at the Sears Centre Arena that saw the three-time defending champion Los Angeles Temptation prevail by a 31-18 tally, the Bliss have gone undefeated. Outscoring opponents by a combined 136-68 score during the unbeaten streak, Furr has shown the poise that makes her a serious candidate for league MVP honors.

Perhaps the most versatile quarterback in the LFL, Furr is also a remarkable weapon in the Bliss’ running game. Heading into the title game, Furr has rushed for 138 yards, averaging 4.5 yards per game. Complemented by four rushing touchdowns, she is capable of turning the tide in her team’s favor for any game.

In addition to her offensive versatility, she is also a force on defense. As a safety, she has logged 23.5 total tackles (18 were solo) along with four interceptions. The opportunity to intercept Philadelphia quarterback Christy Bell in the LFL championship game may be the factor that determines the winner.

Definitely the emotional favorite heading into the big game, her path towards the championship game runs parallel to Sami Grisafe, quarterback of the Chicago Force in the WFA. Both women’s football heroes in the Windy City, their 2012 seasons ended with championship game losses. Like Furr, Grisafe was a long-time elite quarterback working hard to make her championship dreams come true.

In 2013, Grisafe would finally earn a long awaited championship as she led the Force to an undefeated season and the WFA national title. Whether lightning will strike twice with Furr is yet to be determined but there is definitely some strong momentum as the women’s football fans of Chicago have been spoiled by two elite quarterbacks.

Future star Kari Janes offers promising future for maligned Minnesota Valkyrie

In a season that saw a beleaguered and maligned Minnesota Valkyrie franchise take a step backward, there was one rookie that offered a glimmer of hope for the future; quarterback Kari Janes. The 23 year-old quarterback played with great heart and determination as she led one of the youngest and most inexperienced teams in the Legends Football League.

Standing at 5’7” and a lean 135 pounds, Janes was stoic during a difficult 0-3 start that saw the Valkyries outscored by a 103-20 margin. Despite a 37.5 completion percentage, along with seven interceptions, Janes looks very comfortable lined up behind center.

Like many of the competitors in the Legends Football League, Janes brings an athletic background to the gridiron. With a soccer background, she has the powerful legs and the endurance to keep up with the most vicious defenders in the league. The endurance and tenacity that she brings to the gridiron of the LFL was cultivated from her performances on the soccer field.

Having played with the Concordia St. Paul Golden Bears, she had several highlights in her career. From contributing two goals in a win over rival Northwestern College to competing in the first-ever athletic match at Sea Foam Stadium, she graduated from the Division II School in the top ten lists of numerous categories of the soccer program.

Some of the more notable categories that Janes ranked in with the program included sixth all-time with 32 points and fifth all-time with 13 goals. Testament to her toughness and determination includes ranking third in shots attempted, third in game winning goals, fourth in games started and second in minutes played.

She established herself as one of the league’s finest rushers. In only three games, was like a lioness as she challenged defenses. With 205 rushing yards on only 34 attempts (for an average of six yards per carry), she supplied 79 percent of Minnesota’s offense in 2013. The Valkyrie would outgain opponents in rushing yards by a 261-225 margin. Competing at the most demanding position in football, Janes ability to break out and emerge in the running game is reminiscent of fellow quarterbacks Nikki Johnson and Anne “Showtime” Erler.

While Minnesota’s dismal season was only natural with the losses of former LFL All-Fantasy selections such as Cydney Froehlich and Whitney Meierotto, Janes is a building block for the future. With veterans like Laurie Jo Miller and Leekplay Paye are still on the roster, it helps to ease the burden of expectation that may fall on Janes’ shoulders.

In her LFL debut, a rushing Janes tries to avoid Anne Erler of the Green Bay Chill (Image obtained from:  http://www.lflus.com/games/minnesota-valkyrie-vs-green-bay-chill/attachment/directorleague-photographer-78)

In her LFL debut, a rushing Janes tries to avoid Anne Erler of the Green Bay Chill (Image obtained from: http://www.lflus.com/games/minnesota-valkyrie-vs-green-bay-chill/attachment/directorleague-photographer-78)

Her first game of the season was a baptism of fire as she competed on the road on May 11 against Anne “Showtime” Erler of the Green Bay Chill. Despite the 40-8 loss, Janes played with a dogged determination. With both bringing intensity to the game, the feeling of a passing of the torch to the next generation was predominant.

Displaying true tenacity, Janes evaded many would-be tacklers, while scoring her first career touchdown in the dying minutes of the game. In a show of irony, her final pass of the game was picked off by Erler (who also pulls double duty as a defensive back). Although her rookie inexperience showed against a proven performer like Erler, it was an admirable debut in the LFL ranks.

Despite a seven-week gap between their first and second games, Minnesota was crushed by the Seattle Mist on the road. Competing against one of the top-ranked teams in all of the LFL, Janes showed no fear. While the crowd at ShoWare Center in Kent, Washington is by-far the most intimidating,

Airing it out in a road contest against the unbeaten Seattle Mist (Image obtained from: http://www.lflus.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/070613_MINvsSEA_EP_2017-XL.jpg)

Airing it out in a road contest against the unbeaten Seattle Mist (Image obtained from: http://www.lflus.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/070613_MINvsSEA_EP_2017-XL.jpg)

While the crowd at ShoWare Center in Kent, Washington is by-far the most intimidating, she managed to lead the Valkyrie into the red zone. Unfortunately, the squad endured the typical growing pains of a rebuilding team as the failure to earn points in the red zone led to a lopsided loss.

With the Mist having been in the league for only five seasons, their dominance is a sign of encouragement for Janes and a Valkyrie teammate that is in a rebuilding mode.

Rushing against the Chicago Bliss (Image obtained from: http://www.lflus.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/i-H45dF3g-XL.jpg)

Rushing against the Chicago Bliss (Image obtained from: http://www.lflus.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/i-H45dF3g-XL.jpg)

Her confidence improved in her home debut, a 25-12 loss to the Chicago Bliss. With an enthusiastic crowd at the Target Center in Minneapolis, Janes fired up the crowd as she hopes to renew the Northeast Division rivalry with the Bliss.

Competing against Heather “Rockstar” Furr, Janes was up against another of the league’s elite quarterbacks. As Furr is another star quarterback whose ability to run and make plays makes her time a contender, it was another lofty opponent for Janes to compete against.

Looking for an open receiver downfield versus the Seattle Mist (Image obtained from: http://www.lflus.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/070613_MINvsSEA_EP_1525-XL.jpg)

Looking for an open receiver downfield versus the Seattle Mist (Image obtained from: http://www.lflus.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/070613_MINvsSEA_EP_1525-XL.jpg)

With the home crowd behind her, Janes replied to Chicago’s first score of the game. Assembling an 8-play drive that consisted on 35 yards and a time-consuming 4:38 to frustrate the Bliss defense, Janes helped lead the Valkyrie to only their second touchdown of the season. With 38 seconds remaining in the first half, Janes displayed the poise that should transform her into one of the league’s elite field generals.

Hyped for pre-game introductions as she makes her home field debut in front of the Valkyries faithful at Target Center (Image obtained from: http://www.lflus.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/i-GKbtCxx-XL.jpg)

Hyped for pre-game introductions as she makes her home field debut in front of the Valkyries faithful at Target Center (Image obtained from: http://www.lflus.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/i-GKbtCxx-XL.jpg)

Despite tying the score, Furr showed why she is one of the most feared players in the league. She would only need five seconds to connect with ChrisDell Ferrari on a touchdown pass to head into halftime with the 12-6 advantage.

Although the seasoned Furr managed to bring Chicago to a 25-6 advantage, Janes showed tremendous character. Not giving up, she assembled a nine play drive consisting of 35 yards. With 2:12 remaining, she would run for three yards to score Minnesota’s second touchdown of the game. While Chicago would run out the clock for a win, Janes made a strong impression in front of the hometown crowd.

High fiving the fans after a hard-fought loss to the Chicago Bliss (Image obtained from: http://www.lflus.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/i-LvRzqt4-XL.jpg)

High fiving the fans after a hard-fought loss to the Chicago Bliss (Image obtained from: http://www.lflus.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/i-LvRzqt4-XL.jpg)

Although Janes was looking to win the final game of the season (a home date versus the Los Angeles Temptation), the contest had no implication on the league’s playoff picture. While the cancelleation prematurely ended the Valkyrie season, it was done as a preventative measure out of concern for injury.

For the disappointed fans, they can find solace in knowing that Janes is a future superstar and franchise player in the making. Her top five ranking in LFL rushing brings optimism to a franchise that can use it. While the rebuilding Valkyrie will likely have to endure another season or two of losing, the road to success may be one well worth it.

Seattle Mist capturing the imaginations of fans in 2013 LFL season

After knocking on the door for so many seasons, the Seattle Mist has knocked it down in 2013. Coming off a victory in the inaugural Pacific Cup against the BC Angels from LFL Canada, the stars seemed to be aligned for the ambitious fifth-year squad.

From LFL Images

From LFL Images

Building on the momentum of a Cup triumph, the Mist has stormed out to a dream season in 2013. Playing out of the ShoWare Center, the Mist was the only undefeated team during the regular season. Capturing their first-ever Pacific Division crown, Seattle scored a league-best 169 points.
Complemented by a Conference title, the Mist are hoping for a triple crown with their first-ever Legends Cup.

A significant aspect from their success starts at the quarterback position. Laurel Creel, who was named Most Valuable Player of the inaugural Pacific Cup, has shown remarkable grace and poise at the position. With the second-best total offense in the league (behind Anne Erler’s Green Bay Chill), Creel helped the Mist register a league-high 24 touchdowns.

Having thrown for 460 yards and 14 touchdowns (compared to only three interceptions), she has served as the catalyst of the Mist’s high-octane offense. With a proficient passer rating of 100.3, Creel ranks third in the league behind Chicago’s Heather Furr and Baltimore’s Morgan Spencer.

Other leaders on the offensive contingent include rookie running back Mele Rich and Shuree Hyatt. With 182 rushing yards and four touchdowns, Rich accounts for 57 percent of the rushing attack. Hyatt has accumulated 9 receptions for 123 yards as she is one of five Mist receivers to have at least 50 receiving yards.

Defensively, Lashaun Fowler is having a season to remember. Leading the Mist with 18 tackles, she was also the LFL regular season sack champion with 3.5.

Kerry Warren applying pressure on Green Bay quarterback Anne Erler (Image obainted from: http://www.lflus.com/schedule?game=546)

Kerry Warren applying pressure on Green Bay quarterback Anne Erler (Image obainted from: http://www.lflus.com/schedule?game=546)

Their road to glory began on April 6 versus the Green Bay Chill. Facing Anne “Showtime” Erler, the Mist were facing one of the most versatile and athletic quarterbacks in the LFL. Their showdown with Erler would signify a season marked by tests against elite members of the league.

While Rich would score the first touchdown of the season for the Mist, no lead is safe against Erler. Although Seattle jumped out to a convincing 20-6 lead, Erler was not intimidated by the boisterous crowd at ShoWare. With a little over two minutes in the first half, Erler helped lead the Chill to the end zone twice as the Mist only had a two-point lead at halftime.

Hyatt would emerge as the story of the game. With two touchdowns in the third quarter, her biggest contribution may have been an interception against Anne Erler. The pick helped to change the momentum as the Mist held off the potent Green Bay offense for a 55-36 final.

Jessica Hopkins breaks a tackle from Los Angeles Temptation defender Jasmine Byndloss (Image obtained from: http://www.lflus.com/schedule?game=580)

Jessica Hopkins breaks a tackle from Los Angeles Temptation defender Jasmine Byndloss (Image obtained from: http://www.lflus.com/schedule?game=580)

Facing the three-time defending LFL champion Los Angeles Temptation on May 4, the contest would truly make or break the Mist’s season. With Citizens Business Bank Arena in Ontario, California serving as the backdrop to this titanic struggle, it was the moment of truth for the Mist.
With the Temptation featuring the likes of Ashley Salerno and Liz Gorman, a road-win against them (something Seattle never did) would be hard earned.

Having emerged as the first dynasty in league history, the Mist was eager to overtake them and beat them on their own field. Nerves were evident as the Mist fumbled early in the game, leading to an Ashley Salerno touchdown pass to Melissa Margulies for an early lead.

An interception by Monique Gaxiola extended the Temptation’s lead with five minutes remaining in the quarter. Despite the strain of facing a high-powered on the road, Mele Rich help to set the tone for the Mist. Before the half expired, she scored a touchdown which helped give Seattle much-needed confidence.

A third-quarter interception of Salerno by Shuree Hyatt provided Seattle with their first lead of the game as the score was now 18-14. While Salerno would redeem herself by reclaiming the lead with a rushing touchdown, Creel would not be outdone. Despite being sacked by Chloe Butler, Creel kept her composure. A touchdown pass to Riki Creger-Zier would emerge as the winning touchdown, as Creel was recognized with Game MVP honors.

Donning number 12, Christine Moore lines up against the Minnesota Valkyries (Image obtained from: http://www.lflus.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/070613_MINvsSEA_EP_1394-XL.jpg)

Donning number 12, Christine Moore lines up against the Minnesota Valkyries (Image obtained from: http://www.lflus.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/070613_MINvsSEA_EP_1394-XL.jpg)

Winless Minnesota would serve as the next opponent for the Mist. The July 6 contest featured a pre-game Fourth of July ceremony as a victory would provide the franchise with its first division title. Minnesota rookie quarterback Kari Janes was intercepted twice in the first half as Seattle jumped out to a 22-0 lead.

Minnesota’s rookie quarterback continued to struggle in the second half as she was intercepted twice again. With only five completions, the 23 year-old was overwhelmed by a more experienced squad in a hostile arena. Seattle touchdowns by Shuree Hyatt and Riki Creger-Zier provided the squad with a convincing 38-0 win and a historic first; the Pacific Division crown.

Trying to contain legendary Las Vegas quarterback Nikki Johnson (Image obtained from: http://www.lflus.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/i-SP747dD-XL.jpg)

Trying to contain legendary Las Vegas quarterback Nikki Johnson (Image obtained from: http://www.lflus.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/i-SP747dD-XL.jpg)

Emotions ran high in the final game of the regular season versus the Las Vegas Sin. The July 20, 2013 contest at Orleans Arena featured former Seattle player Danika Brace competing against her former team.

With rookie runner Carmen Bourseau providing Las Vegas with a 7-0 lead, as the club was still looking for a postseason berth. As Jessica Hopkins sat out the contest with an injury, it would only have been natural to expect Sin quarterback Nikki Johnson, one of the greatest quarterbacks in LFL history, to pick apart the Mist defense.

Instead of a great quarterback match-up between Johnson and Creel, the outcome of the match was settled before halftime. On one of her first pass attempts, Johnson was picked off by Mele Rich who ran it back for a touchdown.

Although Johnson played valiantly and displayed tenacity, she could not help the Sin regain the lead. A touchdown pass to Kelley Schroeder pulled the Sin to within 8 points, with a 22-14 score. Before halftime, Megan Hanson and Mele Rich would score touchdowns for the 36-14 advantage.

Overwhelmed throughout the match by an aggressive Mist defense, Johnson was helpless as her team was simply not capable of matching up against Seattle. The game would signify the worst performance of her legendary career, as she went 9-for-21, while racking up three interceptions. The 52-14 final score represented several franchise milestones for the Mist; most points in one game and highest margin of victory in a game.

Left to right: Riki Greger-Zier, Jessica Hopkins. Christine Moore and Shea Norton (Imgae obtained from: http://www.lflus.com/seattlemist)

Left to right: Riki Greger-Zier, Jessica Hopkins. Christine Moore and Shea Norton (Imgae obtained from: http://www.lflus.com/seattlemist)

While the next stop in Seattle’s breakthrough season shall be the Conference Championship on August 24 in Los Angeles, confidence is high as the club brings an offensive attack that shall prove to be difficult for any offense to contain. Super rookies such as Mele Rich and Shuree Hyatt have added a new dimension to the offensive attack, while complementing Creel’s emergence as an elite quarterback.

The maturity of players such as Riki Creger-Zier and Christine Moore has also been a key aspect in the Mist’s unprecedented success. Along with veterans Jessica Hopkins, the three have provided absolute consistency, versatility and leadership for the Mist.

Defensively, the three have combined for 42 tackles and three sacks. Their presence on offense has also been of great boon for the Mist. Hopkins has a combined 140 yards from scrimmage and three touchdowns, making her one of the most valuable members of the roster. Creger-Zier has 78 yards and two touchdowns, while Moore has 49 yards and two scores.

While no championship is guaranteed, the 2013 campaign emerged as a validation for the hard work that the Mist has put into the game and towards building strong bonds within their community. For their enthusiastic fans, their loyalty and devotion has reinforced their standing as the best fans in the league. Regardless of the outcome of the postseason, the Mist has emerged as a model franchise in the LFL, paving the way for the other expansion teams to follow.

Anne “Showtime” Erler looks to propel Green Bay Chill into postseason

A 2011 road win against the Chicago Bliss resulted in Legends Football League history as the Green Bay Chill captured their first victory in franchise history. Led by quarterback Anne “Showtime” Erler, the win marked a great milestone for the franchise.

On August 10, 2013, Erler will look to provide heroics against Chicago once more. With Chicago sitting in second in the LFL Western Division, Green Bay is looking for a win to overtake them.

It should prove to be an emotionally-filled match for Erler and Furr. During the 2012 LFL Canada season, the two played together with the Saskatoon Sirens. Known affectionately to fans as Furrler, the duo led the Sirens to the best regular season record.

Erler was the league’s passing champion while Furr (her favorite receiving target) was the receiving champion. Although Furrler and the Sirens would lose to the BC Angels in the championship game, Erler would walk away as the first-ever LFL Canada Most Valuable Player.

The 2011 road win in which the Chill prevailed by a 36-34 tally put Erler and Furr in the spotlight as the two displayed their remarkable talents. With the remarkable legs of Erler, she would be the difference in the game as she accumulated three rushing touchdowns resulting in Green Bay marching out to a 28-14 lead. Chill starting running back Melissa DeJesus contributed with a pair of successful two-point converts.

While Furr and Harris brought the Chicago offense back into the game, tying the score, Erler showed tremendous grace under pressure. With the score deadlocked at 28-each, Erler masterfully led a superlative drive. Katie Zellner connected with Erler on a 12-yard touchdown with only 85 seconds remaining in the contest.

A two-point convert to Jessica Peyton would extend the lead to 8 points. Chicago quarterback Heather Furr took only 16 seconds to reply. She ran for a touchdown as there was 1:09 left on the clock. Looking to tie the score, Furr attempted to find Laura Petersen but was not successful. Proceeding with an onside kick, the Bliss were hoping to regain possession.

Recognized as that game’s Most Valuable Player, Erler will be a target for the Bliss in the August 10 contest. With all the intensity and drama of a playoff match, Erler will be needed to pass with precision and rush for crucial yardage.

Anne Erler (left) and Ana Heasman

Anne Erler (left) and Ana Heasman

Statistically, Erler is nothing short of remarkable this season as she leads the Chill in two key statistical categories; her 409 passing yards and 109 rushing yards pace all members of the Chill. Her 13 touchdown passes and three interceptions are complemented by a 136.3 passer rating.

Making a strong case as the 2013 LFL MVP, the six-foot tall Erler has a remarkable target in LFL receiving leader Anna Heasman. The 5’10” boisterous blonde receiver has a sparkling 196 receiving yards and seven touchdown receptions, respectively.

Chicago’s offense is led by the tandem of Heather Furr and ChrisDell Harris. While Furr is the LFL’s passing leader with a sparking 206 yards, Harris is the leading ground gainer with 271 yards. Perhaps more impressive are the six touchdowns that Harris has accumulated.

ChrisDell Harris (left) and Heather Furr

ChrisDell Harris (left) and Heather Furr

Complemented by her 52 receiving yards, Harris has 323 combined yards of total offense, making her the league’s most potent weapon on offense. The 5’9” dynamo will need to be at the top of her game should the Force hope to clinch a postseason berth.

As Erler and Furr are both safeties, the two know each other so well that other variables will need to be exploited in order for either side to claim a victory. Regardless of the outcome, the presence of Furrler on the field shall stimulate interest from LFL fans on both sides of the border, as the clash of these two LFL titans is destined to make this emotional contest a soon-to-be classic.