IT’S ALL ABOUT THE PLAYOFFS: A LOOK BACK AT SIX SEASONS OF LFL HISTORY
July 14, 2016
A month from now, four teams will be in their final preparation for this season’s Conference Championship playoffs. Though the playoff scenario mathematically still allows six of the eight teams a chance at clinching a spot, the current odds favor the match-ups between the Dallas Desire and Seattle Mist in the Western Conference and the Chicago Bliss and Atlanta Steam in the Eastern Conference. The New England Liberty and Austin Acoustic have both been eliminated, while Los Angeles and Omaha still have a slim chance to clinch. After the Week-15 contest between Dallas and Omaha, the playoff scenario will be set.
As the history of other sports have proven, players and teams are remembered for what they do in the playoffs. In nearly every sport, when people talk about who the greatest teams or players are, the discussion always leads to playoff records, championships, and performances in the post-season.
There is something special about the post-season play and the excitement felt by fans. Whether their favorite team is competing in the playoffs or not, fans want to see what happens. The ‘Big Dance’ exists for all sports and it’s what every team works toward and what every player dreams about. These games determine the ultimate champion and there can only be one crowned champion every season.
The same goes for the Legends football League. Twenty years from now, when fans look back on the league’s early history they will reference the LA three-peat, Chicago’s dominant run and championship defense, Philadelphia Passion’s run of three consecutive legends Cups where they fell short in all three, and the incredible season the Seattle Mist put together last year.
Most fans won’t be discussing teams like the Jacksonville Breeze, the Las Vegas Sin, or the Atlanta Steam when referencing the best teams in the first decade. It’s about the championships won and the big stage of the Legends Cup game. And the teams that get there consistently and ultimately win, are the teams remembered most.
Ashley Salerno 2x Legends Cup Champion (LA Temptation)
As you can see there are a handful of the ten teams that have made it to the postseason and never won a game, like the Tampa/ Jacksonville Breeze who were knocked out the first round in three appearances, and then there is Dallas, Baltimore, Vegas, and Miami who all lost in their only playoff appearance. These one-and-done teams are quickly forgotten in the eyes of the fans when looking at the surface of the leagues six year history so far.
First note that Seattle, has only made the postseason twice and last year was the first year they won a playoff game. Seattle has been around since Day-One along with Chicago and LA and before last season’s championship run, they were in that one-and-done list with Dallas, Baltimore, Vegas and Miami. But now with a title, fans look at the Mist franchise in a completely different respect. They’re champions now and are looking to continue building on their playoff Legacy.
Then there is the Philadelphia Passion team that made the playoffs three consecutive seasons (2010-2013) and advanced to the championship in each. However, the Philadelphia Passion led by quarterback Christy Bell could not find a formula to get over the hump and attain a Legends Cup title. This run by the Philadelphia Passion is very similar to the NFL’s Buffalo Bills who lost four consecutive Super Bowls in the early 90’s. Heading into the second championship, Philly fans thought that this would be the year, then after another loss and a third chance at the title, the third attempt would certainly be the one. But again, they were defeated in the big game and Philly fans felt the devastation Buffalo fans felt 20 years prior.
Then we take a look at the Atlanta Steam, a team that has made the playoffs every year in their existence, but other than an incredible upset against the Jacksonville Breeze in 2014 when they advanced to the legends Cup, they have not been able to do much. Last season’s blowout loss to the Chicago Bliss in the Eastern Conference Championship, has many fans doubting the Steam’s ability to prevail in the post-season anytime in the near future.
What is so important about the playoffs and these team’s performance on the big stage is the fact that they are a part of history and are literally writing the history books that fans will discuss ten, twenty and hopefully fifty years from now.
What a lot of people don’t realize, and it’s the reality of all professional leagues today- that once the audience grows and the familiarity of the sport is developed across a larger audience, more and more fans will take the time to invest in learning the history. For example when fans today watch Tom Brady and Peyton Manning, they compare them to Joe Montana and John Elway, and when fans watched Montana and Elway they were compared to the likes of Joe Namath and Roger Staubach. When critics or fans look at whether a player or team’s performance is great, good, or bad it requires context to relate the current to the past.
There will be four teams this postseason who are looking to write the next chapter in the LFL playoff History books. A few of the players left standing victorious this August will either be furthering their legacies or adding their names to the future discussions of the greats who played in the LFL.
Here is a list of some of the most notable LFL players and coaches in playoff History:
Heather Furr and Ashley Salerno are the two Winningest Quarterbacks in the LFL and are the only two quarterbacks with two championship rings. Furr was just short of a third title after nearly leading her team to an incredible second-half comeback against the Seattle Mist in the final game of her long LFL career during last year’s Legends Cup. There is no player that has played in more playoff games than Monique Gaxiola, who has been with LA since the beginning and is the only player still in the league today with three championship rings. ChrisDell ‘Ferrari’ Harris has been a big part of the Chicago’s offense and helped lead the Bliss to back-to-back Championships alongside Furr.
Head-Coach David Bizub
Head-Coach Keith Hac
David Bizub is the only head-coach with three titles and having led his team to the postseason every year he coached. Right behind with titles is Keith Hac (2) who has coached the Bliss in every year except the second season and has appeared in four Legends Cups. Hac is 7-2 in the post-season and both loses have came in the Legends Cup. Yashi Rice has been a major factor to the Bliss’ defensive success during their Championship run and has been labeled one of the best defensive ends in league history. Christy Bell is the Jim Kelly of the LFL and was able to consistently get her team to the Championship game (three consecutive years), but failed to win the big one.
There are a handful of Seattle players who are making a case for being recognized as the most influential players to play in the post-season after last year’s championship season. Danika Brace was a dominant threat on both sides of the ball during the playoffs last year, and along with her was Stevi Schnoor who won the Legends Cup MVP after her unbelievable performance on defense as well as her performance running the ball. Head-Coach Chris Michaleson joins Hac and Bizub in the ranks of Legends Cup winning head-coaches and KK Matheny joins the list of quarterbacks to win a Legends Cup title along with Ali Eastlake (LA), Ashley Salerno (LA), and Heather Furr (Chicago).
For all of the history buffs who can talk about past seasons for hours and enjoy looking at brackets, here is a compilation of the six previous seasons in LFL history here in the US. By September there will be another bracket joining the list and possibly a new team will cement their legacy in the LFL playoff history books.
Season 1: 2009-2010
The first season of LFL Football featured ten teams that were split among the Western and Eastern Conferences. In the East there was the Chicago Bliss, Miami Caliente, New York Majesty, Philadelphia Passion, and the Tampa Breeze. While the Western Conference was made up of the Los Angeles Temptation, Dallas Desire, Denver Dream, San Diego Seduction, and the Seattle Mist.
Official US LFL postseason history can be traced to the first Conference Championship games held on February 4, 2010, in Miami, with the first title game held two days later on February 6th. As the bracket displays, the Los Angeles Temptation went on to win the first Championship in LFL History as they defeated the Bliss, which began a rivalry between the two franchises.
The first season, six individual awards were handed out at the league’s awards ceremony: League MVP- Gabrielle Marie (Dallas Desire), Offensive Player of the Year- Saran Dunmore (Chicago Bliss), Defensive Player of the Year- Elizabeth Gorman (Tampa Breeze), Coach of the Year- Antuan Edwards (Dallas Desire), Mortaza Award- Erin Marie Garrett (Dallas Desire), and the Most Improved Player- Riley Maddex (LA Temptation).
Season 2: 2010-2011
The second season eight of the original ten teams still existed as two new Eastern Teams, the Baltimore Charm and Orlando Fantasy were added to the league and Chicago was restructured into the Western Conference.
The Los Angeles Temptation, led by rookie quarterback Ashley Salerno, went on to win their second consecutive championship after beating the Philadelphia Passion, and completing the only perfect season in LFL history. Ashley Salerno also named the MVP of the Lingerie Bowl in the second season.
Individual awards in the second season were: League MVP- Heather Furr (Chicago Bliss), Offensive Player of the Year- Marirose Roach (Philadelphia Passion), Defensive Player of the Year- Deborah Poles (Chicago Biss), Rookie of the Year- Ashley Salerno (LA Temptation), Coach of the Year- Chandler Brown (Philadelphia Passion), and the Mortaza Award- Natalie Jahnke (LATemptation).
Season 3: 2011-2012
The third season saw a jump from ten to twelve teams in the league. A few of the franchises were shelved in 2011, while five new teams had their inaugural season. Joining the league was the Cleveland Crush, Toronto Triumph, Green Bay Chill, Las Vegas Sin, and the Minnesota Valkyrie, as Miami, Dallas, and San Diego were inactive.
The regular season finished again with two undefeated 4-0 teams with Philadelphia and Las Vegas, with Los Angeles and Tampa both advancing with 3-1 records. That season the Orlando Fantasy also finished at 3-1 but the Breeze held the head-to-head win by a score of 20-18. Both Cleveland and Toronto finished winless with 0-4 records. This was also the worst season in Chicago Bliss history as the Keith Hac led Bliss team finished 1-3 in the West.
In a playoff that featured two teams looking to join the Temptation with the accolade of achieving a perfect season, neither 4-0 teams were the last one standing. Las Vegas was defeated by LA by a score of 27-18 at the Citizens Business Bank Arena in Ontario, California while Philadelphia and Tampa put together an offensive shootout with the Passion finishing with the 44-32 victory.
The Legends Cup was a rematch from the season before and it featured the same result with LA topping Philadelphia and clinching the only three-peat in LFL history. Ashley Salerno also went on to win her second Lingerie Bowl MVP award alongside co-mvp Amber Reed.
Individual awards in 2011-2012 were as follows: League MVP- Kyle Dehaven (Baltimore Charm), Offensive Player of the Year- Marirose Roach (Philadelphia Passion), Defensive Player of the Year- Liz Gorman (Tampa Breeze), Rookie of the Year- Annie Erler (Green Bay Chill), Coach of the Year- Chris Michaelson (Seattle Mist), Mortaza Award- Jessica Hopkins (Seattle Mist), Most Improved Player- Ogom Chijundu (LA Temptation), Team of the Year- Seattle Mist, and 8th Man Award (Best Fan Base)- Seattle Mist.
Season 4: 2013
The 2013 season featured numerous changes for the league. The sport was re-branded to the Legends Football League from the formerly known Lingerie Football League and the season was changed from a winter season to a spring/summer season. The other change was among the Conferences, where for the first time teams were also divided into Divisions.
In the Eastern Conference, the Northeastern Division was made up of the Baltimore Charm, Cleveland Crush, and Philadelphia Passion, while the Southeastern Division consisted of the Atlanta Steam, Omaha Heart, and Jacksonville Breeze. Atlanta and Omaha were in their inaugural season after replacing Orlando and Toronto.
The Western Conference also had two divisions that consisted of the Midwestern Division that had the Chicago Bliss, Green Bay Chill, and the Minnesota Valkyrie. The West also had the Pacific Division with the three teams- Las Vegas Sin, Los Angeles Temptation, and the Seattle Mist.
This season was also the first year that six teams advanced to the postseason with two teams earning a first round bye. The division leaders were Chicago, Atlanta, Baltimore, and Seattle, with Baltimore and Seattle clinching the bye-week as they finished atop their Conferences. The two wildcard teams were Philadelphia and Los Angeles.
Interestingly neither teams that had a bye in the first round made it to the Legends Cup after both Seattle and Baltimore were beat by Chicago and Philadelphia respectively. The Passion were playing in their third consecutive championship game and again failed to win the big one after Chicago defeated them by a score of 38-14 in the Orleans Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada. League MVP Heather Furr had led her Bliss team to their first Legends Cup Championship.
League Awards were as follows in the 2013 season: League MVP- Heather Furr (Chicago Bliss), Offensive Player of the Year- Anne Erler (Green Bay Chill), Defensive Player of the Year- Adrian Purnell (Jacksonville Breeze), Rookie of the Year- Kelley Schroeder (Las Vegas Sin), Shuree Hyatt (Seattle Mist) Mortaza Award- Monique Gaxiola (LA Temptation), Most Improved Player- Kelly Campbell (Baltimore Charm), Coach of the Year- Keith Hac (Chicago Bliss), Team of the Year- Seattle Mist, 8th Man Award (Best Fan Base)- Omaha Heart.
Season 5: 2014
The 2014 season of LFL football went from twelve to ten teams as Minnesota in the West and Philadelphia in the East were inactive for the season. The Crush franchise was also relocated from Cleveland to Toledo. The two conferences were again compiled only by conference and league divisions were eliminated.
In 2014 the Chicago Bliss finished the regular season undefeated, but also had a game that resulted in a tie with the Seattle Mist. Chicago and LA advanced to the postseason in the West while Atlanta and Jacksonville represented the East in the Conference Championships.
For the second straight season, the Bliss knocked out the Temptation in the postseason and went on to their second consecutive Championship appearance. In the East it was a big upset that resulted, as Atlanta led by the young quarterback Dakota Hughes was able to miraculously upset the high powered Jacksonville Breeze team.
Chicago went on to win their second title and defeated Atlanta in a well fought game that ended with a final score of 24-18. The Bliss became the second team to win multiple championships in the LFL joining LA who had three.
Individual awards for the fifth season were as follows: League MVP-Saige Steinmetz (Jacksonville Breeze), Offensive Player of the Year- Chrisdell Harris (Chicago Bliss), Defensive Player of the Year- Danika Brace (Las Vegas Sin), Rookie of the Year- Dakota Hughes (Atlanta Steam), Mortaza Award- Ogom Chijindu (LA Temptation), Coach of the Year- Dane Robinson (Atlanta Steam), Team of the Year- Atlanta Steam, and the 8th Man Award (Best Fan Base)- Omaha Heart.
Season 6: 2015
The sixth season in 2015 was a season of more game and more rivalries. The league was cut to six teams that featured more games during their regular season which led to a migration of players and coaches to other franchises.
As both Omaha and Las Vegas were winless during the 2015 season the playoff battles were nearly determined by midseason with Atlanta facing Chicago and Seattle facing LA. It was the sixth consecutive time that LA made the postseason and Chicago was heading into the post-season undefeated while riding a nearly two-and-a-half-year span were they had not lost a game.
The Conference Championships were poised to be some of the best match-ups in LFL history, but Atlanta was the only team of the four that failed to compete at a high level after suffering a 41-6 loss to Chicago, while Seattle and LA’s battle came down to the final minute with Seattle taking the win by a score of 28-24.
The Legends Cup was a must see classic after Seattle captured a 20-0 halftime lead, where many expected Chicago to have no chance of a comeback after how well Seattle handled the Chicago running game. But an incredible fourth quarter performance by Chicago had them back in it and in position to attempt an onside kick to have a chance at one final drive to tie or win the game. However the attempt was recovered by Seattle as they went on to join the Temptation and Bliss as LFL Champions.
Last season’s awards went as follows: League MVP- Danika Brace (Seattle Mist), Offensive Player of the Year- Dakotha Hughes (Atlanta Steam), Defensive Player of the Year- Danika Brace (Seattle Mist), Rookie of the Year- Dominique Malloy (Las Vegas Sin), In The Trenches- Dina Wojowski (Atlanta Steam), Mortaza Award- Lauran Ziegler (Atlanta Steam), Coach of the Year- Chris Michaelson (Seattle Mist), Team of the Year- Seattle Mist, and the 8th Man Award (Best Fan Base)- Seattle Mist.