DARK ANGEL’s RETURN TO LA COULD GET UGLY (OFFICIAL GAME PREVIEW)
(LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA- Thursday, May 5th, 2016)
Two weeks after their 20-12 loss against rival Seattle Mist, the LA Temptation (0-1) return to the Citizens Business Bank Arena to take on a familiar face as the Black & White look to rebound against the Dallas Desire (0-0). The Desire look to stamp their team’s return to the LFL with a win over LA and make a statement to the rest of the league, that Dallas is here to compete this season.
This match-up was one of the early-on rivalries in the LFL, as these two teams played in high-stakes games, one that decided the regular season conference champion in 2009 and the other game which punched a ticket to the league’s first Legends Cup. With Michelle Angel’s decision to play for Dallas this season and having to face her old team, expect the Dallas/ LA rivalry to build off of this Saturday’s game.
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Las Vegas Betting Line
Los Angeles- 5 points | Over/Under 51 points
The Dallas Desire’s last franchise win was nearly seven years ago on October 23rd of 2009, which was actually against Los Angeles in the first LFL season, when they beat the Temptation 24-12. At the time, the franchise was unbeaten in team history (3-0), but that win against LA was followed by a string of losses for Dallas that went on to lose to Seattle in the regular season finale, then bumped by LA in the Western Conference Championship later that season. The Desire’s second season was much worse and the losing continued as the franchise finished 0-3, only scoring 26 points in the 2010 season. During Dallas’ losing stretch LA beat them by scores of 40-6 in 2010 (second season) and 20-14 in their playoff contest.
This 2016 Dallas Desire has high expectations and looks to make their case for being among the top teams in the Western Conference. In football, a team’s caliber of quarterback play generally correlates to how successful the team will be. With Michelle Angel under center, who proved her ability to play quarterback last season, the Desire are expected to be a team to compete right out of the gate this year. In 2015, Angel started three games in place of the injured Ashely Salerno, where she completed 20 of 36 passes for 207 yards with 5 TD passes, and also rushed for two more scores. With Salerno’s retirement, Angel was the next-in-line for LA, but instead surprised the Temptation Nation when she announced her decision to sign with Dallas, taking one of LA’s top receivers in 2015, Monika Jaramillo, along with her.
The Desire are coached by brothers Terrance and Melvin Bullitt who both had stints with NFL teams and they expect to build a championship caliber franchise in Dallas. The starting Desire offense will feature four rookies this Saturday night as quarterback Michelle Angel is joined by rookie running-back Victoria Thomas, receivers Monika Jaramillo and rookie Cortnee White, tight-ends Danielle Hawkins and rookie Jade Randle, and rookie center Nicole Peterson. Jaramillo was a top target for Angel in LA last season and is best known for her deep threat as she scored on multiple 30+ yard completions in 2015. White is one of the fastest athletes on the Desire and she will be another deep threat and top receiving target for Angel. Running-back Victoria Thomas is a former D1 volleyball player who brings a high level of aggression and has been described as a ‘punishing runner’ early on in the team’s training camp.
On the defensive side of the ball, Dallas features two rookie defensive-ends, Victoria Thomas and Ashley Dixon. Dixon was actually cut from the team’s first tryouts, primarily due to a nagging injury. But after a roster spot opened up a couple weeks into training camp, a healthy Dixon seized her opportunity and impressed the coaching staff as she earned a starting position. Starting at the linebacker spot is veteran Danielle Hawkins who played for Dallas in their early years and most recently for Omaha a couple seasons ago. The secondary features the most veteran talent on the team with cornerbacks Nikki Pugh and Monika Jaramillo, and strong-safety Shawnte’ Shiree. Shiree and Pugh also played with Dallas in their former seasons and Shiree most recently played for Omaha in 2014. Joing Shiree at safety is rookie Jade Randle who has tight-end height and size with wide-receiver speed, so expect her to make an impact against LA’s passing game.
Key for Dallas
After seeing film on what Seattle was able to do against the secondary in the first-half of the Week-3 game, Dallas will need to find their own way of exposing the LA defense that better defends the run. Protecting Michelle Angel from LA’s rush led by Megan Hanson will be important to give her time to target her deep receivers. Power-back Stevi Schnoor had a great game against LA so if Victoria Thomas can use her size and agility in the same fashion, expect LA to have their hands full defending the run. With the speed that Dallas features at receiver, look for Angel to throw the ball deep if she has adequate protection. On the defensive side of the ball, Dallas will need to get pressure on Jayne Caldwell and make her uncomfortable early on. If Dallas can contain running-back Nas Johnson and get pressure on Caldwell, they should have success against LA.
Players to Watch
Los Angeles Temptation
Never in franchise history has the Temptation began a season with an 0-2 record, and this year an 0-2 start against two conference opponents would likely keep them out of the playoffs, something that LA has never missed in their six previous seasons. In fact LA is the only franchise to compete in the playoffs every season since the leagues inception.
Quarterback Jayne Caldwell performed well in her first career start in the league as she completed 5 of 12 passes for 68 yards with 1 TD and 1 INT, also rushing for 38 yards on 6 carries with 1 TD. Caldwell has a lot of room for improvement as she appeared a bit raw as a passer. After Caldwell’s rough start in the first half with only completing 2 of 7 passes including her INT and TD, back-up quarterback Kiara Patterson began the second-half at the position, and looked great as she began the drive completing all three of her pass attempts. However consecutive fumbles by Patterson on rushing attempts, one that was recovered by Seattle, was enough for the coaching staff to put Caldwell back in. Caldwell threw the ball better in the second half completing 3 of 5 passes and she also rushed for a score at the beginning the final quarter.
Looking to build off of their close game against Seattle, where their second-half performance was much better than the first, the Temptation have made a few adjustments as they prepare to take on Dallas. The offense will feature the same personnel with receivers Cynthia Schmidt and Kiana Takairangi, ends Quincy Hewitt and Sherri Awagah, center Megan Hanson, running-back Nas Johnson, and starting quarterback Jayne Caldwell.
On the defensive side of the ball, there are some changes. Veteran Christina Sagarminaga is returning to the starting line-up at defensive-end alongside Hanson, and Janai McElroy is starting in place of the injured Chelsey Haardt at cornerback. Also Delany Hall has earned the starting position over Tai Emery after Delany proved to be the better option in pass coverage against Seattle. Monique Gaxiola will be starting linebacker and Lily Granston and Ogom Chijindu remain in the starting secondary at safety and cornerback respectively.
Key for Los Angeles
It will be crucial for Caldwell to build her confidence early on. Completing some passes in their first couple drives is a good way for her to build on the improved second-half in their first game. Turnovers were a big problem for LA against Seattle so it will be important for the offense to protect the ball and for Caldwell to make smart decisions with her passes. Defensively, it will be important to get pressure on Angel while keeping her contained. She proved last season that she can tuck and run, so the pressure needs to be contained. If they do not get pressure on Angel it will be difficult for the secondary to defend the speedy Dallas receivers.
Naja Christmas – Shoulder – OUT
Chelsey Haardt – Hip – OUT