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Atlanta hopes to Steam roll Pittsburgh Rebellion in Pittsburgh’s home opener

The Atlanta Steam (0-0) will open their 2017 Legends Football League season on the road against the Pittsburg Rebellion (0-1) in what will be the home opener for the first year franchise. The meeting comes in Week 4 of the LFL season. Pittsburgh kicked off their inaugural season in Week 2 with a 32-9 road loss to the Omaha Heart (1-0).

Atlanta is looking to rebound from a disappointing 2016 season that ended the same way the prior two seasons did, with a loss to the Chicago Bliss (1-0) in the postseason, and saw the Steam post a 1-3-1 mark after opening the season as the team to beat in the East.

While many of the returning players are just in their sophomore year, there is a solid core that has 4+ seasons of experience dealing with the rigors involved in being a part of the LFL that will provide both the talent and the leadership needed to challenge for a title. Of this group, only Alfye Gore (CB/FS), Keyon Harrison (CB), and Dakota Hughes (QB), who was the Offensive Player of the Year in 2015, has spent their entire careers wearing the black and red.

Other key veterans returning are Adrian Purnell (SS/TE), Dina Wojowski (C/MLB), the 2015 “In the Trenches” Award recipient, and Lauran Ziegler (WR/NB), the Mortaza Award Winner last season. The trio joined Atlanta after playing together with the Jacksonville Breeze.

Sophomores to watch include Brittany Demery (DE/RB) and Jesse Locklear (RB/WR).

Hughes made the decision shortly after last season that she would return, and her enthusiasm for the 2017 season is proof that she made the correct decision. Dakota told me earlier in the week that she is “excited to get after it again.”

After the disappointment that the 2016 season was, many questioned what would change for Atlanta this season. It’s clear that those that went through last season, including the coaching staff, are back with a burning desire to replace that memory with a much happier one.

Reflective of how last season impacted players and coaches in a profound way, Dakota spoke of how Head Coach Dane Robinson’s approach to this season, which is “If you do what you have always done, you will get what you have always gotten,” has led her to change not only her training routine, but her mental approach as well.

“I have changed my training regimen and how I approach the game from a leadership and quarterback standpoint too. The coaches have done the same in their coaching techniques and how our practices are being run now. We have all made some great changes for the better in how we prepare for our games.”

Dakota is looking forward to the Pittsburgh game, and the chance to show everyone the Atlanta Steam of 2017. She believes the rookies will make an impact early, saying “I have been extremely proud of their hard work and I am excited for them to show everyone what has been working behind the scenes.”

Coach Robinson, the 2014 LFL Coach of the Year, made it clear that he and his staff, which includes last season’s LFL Assistant Coach of the Year Mark White, used last season, and specifically the playoff loss to the Bliss, to motivate the players. Robinson was impressed with the way the ladies responded, saying that “It would have been easy to go in the tank after the way last season ended, but these ladies used it to push themselves forward.”

Robinson wants this team to utilize a more balanced offensive attack than last year’s was able to produce, and he believes that the running back combination of Demery and Locklear will achieve that. Demery is the power back, but Robinson says that Locklear has increased her physicality and she will be a key part of the ground attack.

Dakota has been a team leader since her rookie season at the tender age of 18, but Robinson says her experiences traveling the world and playing on those large stages have “made her a more mature, more refined woman” which has in turn changed the way that she manages her role as team leader.

Like the players, Robinson is ready to get the season underway, saying “Fans should expect to see a team with a boulder on their shoulder. You can’t come that close to an Eastern Conference title and a second trip to the Legends Cup, and fall short because of your own performance and not feel the need to rectify it.”

The Atlanta Steam takes the next step on their journey toward achieving the ultimate goal on Saturday when they face Pittsburgh with the Rebellion looking to pull off a major upset in their home opener.

-Mike Delrio: LFL360.com writer Atlanta Steam