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LINGERIE BOWL I: HANSON & GARCIA LIGHT UP THE FIELD FOR BC AS MISSED OPPORTUNITIES AND MISTAKES PLAGUE SASKATOON

LFL360.com, Marcus de la Fuente

LFL Canada’s first ever Lingerie Bowl took place this past weekend just outside Vancouver, British Columbia at the Abbotsford Sports & Entertainment Centre. The Saskatoon Sirens took on the 2-2 BC Angels in a game that would decide the champions of the 2012 LFL Canada season.

 Heading into this game, many LFL fans favored the BC Angels offense, led by star running back Stephanie Manou, who had a fantastic season, leading the league with 337 rushing yards. BC dominated teams on the ground all year and supported this with hard-nosed defensive play from Jessica Hopkins, the league leader in tackles, and Kate Marshall, the league leader in sacks.

The Angels were pitted against a Saskatoon team that surprised everyone this year, finishing atop the LFL Canada standings at 3-1 including a win against the BC Angels earlier this year. The firepower on offense for the sirens comes from Anne Erler and Heather Furr, a Quarterback/Wide Receiver combo that has stretched the field all season long. The two connected for four touchdowns during the season and were on point to do it again during this championship game matchup.

Saskatoon started fast in their opening drive as they came out pounding the rock on the ground with running back Tamar Fennell. Fennell would finish the day 40 yards rushing and a receiving touchdown, but perhaps her most definitive play of the evening came when she fumbled into the end zone on Saskatoon’s opening drive, right as she was about to score. The Angels recovered and the ruling on the field of a touchback was upheld. BC took over at the 15-yard line and the Sirens were dealt their first setback of the night.

The Angels got off to a rocky start on offense as Saskatoon showed that they had a plan to stop Stephanie Manou early and force Angels QB Mary Anne Hanson to pass. Manou was stuffed on her first few rushing attempts, and Hanson was sacked on the Angels opening drive, forcing a long 4th down situation. After failing to convert, the Sirens took over on offense to start the 2nd quarter and try and get some points on the board. It didn’t take long, as Anne Erler connected with Tamar Fennell on a play fake to put the Sirens up 6-0 with 7:00 to go in the half.

On the ensuing Angels drive, you could tell that the Sirens defense was going to stick to their plan of forcing Mary Anne Hanson to find success through the air. Hanson was able to drive her team down the field to the Saskatoon 7-yard line, but after Aleesa Garcia had the ball slip past her fingers on a quick slant, the Angels were unable to punch it in, and the Sirens took over deep in their own territory.

Sirens QB Anne Erler was persistent in taking shots downfield, but BC continued to bring pressure. While under duress, Erler was unable to connect with a wide-open Carrie Britton on what would have been a huge play for the Sirens. After burning a few time outs, and coming up with a sack and great defensive stand, the Angels were able to take over on offense in Sirens territory with just under five seconds remaining in the half. On 2nd down, with 0.2 seconds to go in the half, Mary Anne Hanson found Aleesa Garcia in the back of the end zone to tie the game at 6 all headed into halftime.

An unlikely finish to the 1st half brought new life into the Angels, and they seemed to regain their confidence on both sides of the ball heading into the last two quarters of the season.

The second half started with BC suffering a few lost yards on offensive penalties, but that didn’t stop Mary Anne Hanson from finding Jessica Hopkins downfield for a 19-yard strike that got them into Saskatoon territory. On the very next play, Aleesa Garcia lined up in the backfield and took it all the way into the end zone for a touchdown to put the Angels up 12-6 with 4:04 to go in the 3rd quarter.

In their first drive of the 2nd half, the Sirens couldn’t seem to get things going. Erler was sacked twice by Angels linebacker Christine Moore, bringing up 4th and long at their own 13. After finding Heather Furr for a completion just short of the first down, BC would take over on downs. Again the pressure from the Angels defense was playing a huge factor in Erler’s inability to make consistent plays on offense.

After a few ineffective running plays from Manou, the Angels were faced with 4th down and 6 to go at the Sirens’ 21-yard line at the end of the 3rd quarter. On the first play of the final quarter of the season, Hanson took a shot downfield but was unable to complete a pass intended for Christine Moore. However Anne Erler was called for pass interference and the drive was able to continue. Penalties once again plaguing this Sirens team, Hanson was given a new set of downs at the Saskatoon 11-yard line and found Christine Moore for 11 yards and a touchdown 3 plays later. After a failed two-point conversion, the Angels were up by two scores, 18-6 with 6:01 remaining in the game. The championship was within reach for the Angels, and Saskatoon had to respond quickly if they wanted to keep their dream of winning a championship alive.

On the following Sirens drive, things looked shaky for their offense. They were stuffed on the ground multiple times, and after Erler was sacked again by Kate Marshall, they faced a 4th and long situation at their own 18. The game was on the brink of being over when Erler went for it all and got it! She found her favorite target Heather Furr deep for 32 yards and a touchdown to bring the Sirens within one score with 3:35 remaining in the game!

At this point, the Angels’ strategy was game management. They put the ball in the hands of their star, Stephanie Manou, and she did what she has done all season… run with power. Manou was able to string together multiple positive yardage plays on the ground and bring the Angels down to the Saskatoon 6-yard line. On 4th and 1 Hanson kept it for a QB sneak and made her way all the way into the end zone. The championship was all but iced up at 25-12 with 1:19 to go in the game.

Just before the last Saskatoon possession, Mary Anne Hanson and Aleesa Garcia were named Lingerie Bowl game MVPs and received a well deserved applause from the crowd at midfield. Hanson racked up 77 yards passing, 2 touchdowns through the air, and 1 on the ground, while Garcia tallied 28 receiving yards, 18 rushing yards and both a receiving and rushing touchdown. These two lit up the field all night, and they are the reason this game got away from Saskatoon.

On the Sirens’ final possession, Anne Erler tried to take one last shot downfield, but her pass was picked off by Jessica Hopkins and returned back into Saskatoon territory. With under a minute to go, Hanson and Manou ran out the clock to end the game with a score of 25-12, and the British Columbia Angels were crowned LFL Canada Champions!

Costly penalties, an early fumble, and a few lapses in focus were the thorn in the side of the Sirens on Saturday night, but ultimately the BC Angels were just too fundamentally sound on both sides of the ball. The BC defense pressured Erler all night, the BC offense found great success through the air, and although Saskatoon did well in stopping Manou early, it was only a matter of time before she wore down the Sirens’ defense. The BC Angels are great champions, and with the way they dominated the field tonight, they are going to be a difficult team to beat next season!