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.