A GAME OF INCHES, AUSTIN IN MIRACLE 18-14 WIN OVER ATLANTA
(AUSTIN, TX.) A coach that has yet to win a game. A frontline that was dominated in its season-opener. A defense that appeared it could double for a matador with an ‘Ole’ defense. Meet the 2018 Austin Acoustic, or so we thought.
Against all the odds, an amazing story was to be told on this night, a story of trials and tribulations. Coming off an embarrassing 51-26 season-opening loss to the Nashville Knights, the road was not going to get easier on this night, as the Eastern Conference champions, Atlanta Steam came into town.
Atlanta despite losing Adrian Purnell to retirement in the off-season, still has an impressive nucleus of talent, including the game’s most complete Quarterback in Dakota Hughes.
Billed as a possible shoot-out, the 1st half only saw one touchdown, as both defenses dug in. You would expect Atlanta’s defense to be tough, but Austin’s defense? The Acoustic just gave up 51pts. to Nashville and were now facing arguably a better offense with Atlanta. Despite the odds and led by Megan Martinez and Kendria Robinson, Austin’s defense did not give up a single point in the 1st half, allowing only 43 total yards of offense.
Austin’s scheme appeared very clear and unlike its previous game plans, simply, establish the run and relieve the burden on the passing game. Meet Rachel Washington, an unlikely hero who delivered in the 1st half and throughout. In fact, the 5’3 running back rushed for an impressive 63 yards in the 1st half, including the 1st half’s sole touchdown, when Washington showed off her elusiveness en route to a 6yd touchdown run. Austin had an improbable 6-0 lead at halftime.
Atlanta was visibly shaken at halftime, completely unaware the challenge Austin would pose on this night. In fact, Lauran Ziegler was seen smashing a chair in the locker room at halftime, in complete disgust.
However, Atlanta won the Eastern Conference for a reason in 2017, so a 6 point margin was not exactly safe, not with Dakota Hughes on the other side. The Steam wasted no time early in the 3rd, as Hughes engineered a 7 play 38 yard drive that led to Atlanta’s first score of the night, a beautiful play-action touchdown pass from Hughes to Britney Demery. With the successful extra point, all the hope and momentum Austin built-up in the 1st half, was dashed.
Could Austin answer or is this where the wheels would come off the wagon, as it has so many games prior. Were the Acoustic finally sick of hearing, ‘Well, you played a great game, just not enough”.
Teshay Winfrey knowing that Hughes is considered the most-complete Quarterback in the LFL, had something to prove, that perhaps Winfrey can now be considered in that class. Winfrey orchestrated an impressive drive of her own, 9 plays 39 yards in response, capped with a Washington 3 yard run, to regain the lead at 12-7. This drive could have proven the most important in Austin Acoustic franchise history. Why? Because, instead of the Acoustic saying, “Oh here we go again”, after Atlanta regained the lead, offensive coordinator / head coach Mike Olvera stayed within his game plan of establishing and riding the run game vs. hitting the panic button and going into a pass-frenzy mode.
Now deep into the 4th quarter, the ‘Cardiac Kid’, Dakota Hughes was once again tasked with rallying her team to win the game, with a final drive. Calmly and with precision, Hughes would guide Atlanta’s offense down the field and with only 1:36 remaining, connecting with her favorite target, Lauran Ziegler on a 9 yard touchdown. The Ziegler touchdown put Atlanta back in the lead at 14-12 with only 1:36 remaining.
The stage was set, if ever Winfrey was going to make a case for herself to finally be considered amongst the game’s elite Quarterbacks, here was the opportunity. In fact, she just witnessed the game’s best, mount a rally to regain the lead and possibly win the game. Early in the drive Winfrey continued to struggle with her accuracy, throwing at the feet of Leilani Lopez on two passes and Lopez dropping another. Lopez has had all the headlines early in the season for Austin, but it was their converted running back, Michelle Marshall who would play like a Superhero late. On the game’s winning drive, it was Marshall’s 18 yard crossing pattern that put Austin’s offense in a position to win.
Then it all came down to one final 4th & Goal from the Atlanta 12 yard line, Hollywood could not have written a better script. The team that had yet to win a game under the Mike Olvera regime, a Quarterback that despite leading the league in passing in 2017 still could not garner any respect, was now on the doorstep of beating an elite team.
The Smurfs, Austin’s small statured receivers, Michelle Marshall, Leilani Lopez and Kendria Robinson flanked out on each side of Winfrey. As the shotgun snap sailed back to Winfrey, you could hear a pin-drop inside H-E-B Center, as the tension could be felt throughout the Austin crowd. A perfect snap and great protection upfront allowed Winfrey to go through her progressions, then eyeing Marshall who ran the perfect slant pattern. Winfrey hit Marshall in stride, connecting at the 3 yard line, as Marshall was being tackled to the ground by Atlanta’s Amber Clark, Clark’s body served as the cushion between Marshall and the turf, which if touched, would have had Marshall one-yard short. Not on this night, Marshall landed on Clark and into the endzone for one of the most memorable endings to any LFL game. The Marshall 12 yard touchdown, rallied Austin to a 18-14 lead and blew the top out off the arena. Acoustic fans and Marshall in joyful tears and a look of disbelief across the Atlanta bench.
Now only 2.5 seconds remained, but Atlanta did have the ‘Cardiac Kid’ and an impressive group of receivers. A final moment of desperation was upon us, in this back-and-forth game filled with tension, highs and lows for both teams. Hughes emptied out the backfield and had three receivers flanked out, the possible targets being Ziegler and the 6’1 Jolie Efezhakae. Hughes received the shotgun snap, dropped back, under good protection, allowed her receivers to get near the goal-line and then threw a perfect spiral that streamed across the length of the field. As the Hughes pass sailed closer to the goal-line, Efezhakae leaped high into the air and snatched what appeared could be the game-winning touchdown. At the last second, Efezhakae’s body was shoved out of bounds, 1 yard short of what would have been another miraculous rally by Dakota Hughes.
Austin finally won and improved to 1-1 on the season and now sit at top of the Western Conference, with the Conference’s only team with a win. The Acoustic next travel to Los Angeles to battle the Temptation on Saturday, June 9, in a must-win game for LA.
Atlanta will host Seattle on Saturday, June 16.
|Passing Yards (Net)||60||68|
|Total Offense Plays-Yards||29-144||49-172|