The Atlanta Steam and Chicago Bliss are set to meet in the Legends (formerly Lingerie) Football League championship, known as the Legends Cup, on Saturday in California with the 2014 LFLUS title on the line. The Eastern Conference champion Steam (3-0-1) and Western Conference champion Bliss (4-0-1) will meet in what is being projected as the most one-sided LFL title game in the league’s five year history.
Atlanta, despite winning the division in their inaugural season in 2013, was not projected to be competitive this season against the Jacksonville Breeze and Baltimore Charm due to a number of changes that included both a new head coach and a new starting quarterback, and “Shocked the LFL world” by advancing to the title game, according to league founder Mitch Mortaza.
Even after going undefeated during the regular season and then downing the powerhouse Breeze in the conference title game in OT in what Mortza has said was “The best LFL game ever”, Atlanta is 18.5 point underdogs to Chicago. The point spread is the biggest ever for the LFL championship pairing.
The Steam must find a way to contain ChrisDell Harris if they are to have a chance to return to Atlanta as the LFL Champions. Harris has accounted for 600 combined yards (460 rushing, 140 receiving) on 68 touches (58/10) and scored 15 touchdowns (11 rushing, 4 receiving) for the Bliss this season. Chicago has used the passing game to keep defenses off balance, but they are without a doubt a power running team that gets Harris the rock 20 times a game.
While the passing game is not Chicago’s main attack, Heather Furr does a great job when she does go to the air and that forces the secondary to hesitate before committing to the run. Furr has thrown 10 TDs without being picked off in 53 attempts. She averages slightly over five completions a game, yet half of those are for scores.
The Atlanta defense has given up just 15 points a game and plays a very aggressive, physical style that is going to collide head on with the power ground game that Chicago is going to try to establish. The Steam will have to play the same team defense that Sharlene Fuller (4.5 tackles), Coco Montgomery (6.0 tackles), Key Harrison (5.0 tackles) and Alfye Gore (5.0 tackles) led against Jacksonville to slow down the Bliss ground assault.
Steam QB Dakota Hughes will lead the offense against a Bliss defense that averages almost three sacks a game and that will be trying to put pressure on the 19-year old rookie star to force her into bad decisions and turnovers. Hughes must be aware of where corner Kim Perez is on every play-the corner has three INTs this season.
The O-line is going to have to stay on their blocks to give Hughes time to find her receivers, the primary of which is Jodie Nettles, but when she is forced to run she will. Ashley Pope and Coco Montgomery will play important roles at TE, both as outlet options and in the blocking schemes.
The ground attack, led by Nas Johnson, faces a challenge with Yashi Rice and Chantell Taylor holding down the end positions for Chicago. Dee Salter will get touches as well.
Atlanta faces a tremendous challenge in Chicago and while almost no one outside of the Steam faithful think they will be able to stay close to the Bliss, the team has become accustomed to receiving little respect to this point in their brief LFL history and has been able to use that as motivation.
During a preseason interview with first-year head coach Dane Robinson, I asked him how the team felt about Atlanta’s low position in the LFL Preseason Power Rankings and the lack of respect Atlanta received across the league and his reply was simple: “We’ll earn our respect on the field.”
Robinson and his team are 32 minutes away from the ultimate accomplishment in any sport, the championship. What more could this team do to earn that elusive respect?
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