(AUSTIN, TX.) Coming into the 9th annual Legends Cup, the match-up appeared to possibly be lopsided as the undefeated Chicago Bliss would play an over-achieving Austin Acoustic team that no one predicted would be in the Legends Cup. A double-digit underdog, Austin also had to worry about its suspect defense and a Quarterback that is at best in inconsistent.

Across nearly every category outside of Wide Receiver, Chicago had the edge, including perhaps the most important, postseason experience. However, as the 1st Quarter started you could instantly tell that Austin was not impressed nor intimidated by Chicago’s resume. The Acoustic offense who were ranked Top 4 most of the season, mounted a 10 play drive that ate up the opening 6 minutes and 10 seconds of the 1st Quarter against perhaps the best defense in LFL history. The drive would come down to a final play, a 4th & Goal at the Chicago 6 yard line, as Winfrey dropped back Kassandra Bills would flash open, Winfrey hit Bills in stride and as Bills came down to the ground, she would drop the ball in what turned out to be the biggest play of the game.

Bills has not returned to her 2017 form, since suffering through an ACL injury. As the Bliss offense took over on downs, Jayne Caldwell appeared to be playing with a chip on her shoulder, as Caldwell is still not considered an ‘elite’ QB in the LFL. Caldwell and perhaps, more importantly, the eventual Game MVP Javell Thompson would guide the Chicago offense on a 9 play 44-yard scoring drive that was capped by a Thompson 7 yard touchdown run to give Chicago a 6-0 lead, as Caldwell’s extra point attempt would fail.

Now into the 2nd Quarter, despite trailing 6-0, Austin felt good about remaining very competitive in a game that Bliss assistant coach Matt Pike was over-heard stating, ‘We’re gonna put 100 on them’. Austin’s offense tried to recover from the Bills’ dropped-touchdown pass but could only manage one 1st down on its next series which would end with a Kristin Morrison sack of Winfrey on a 4th & 7, at the Chicago 9 yard line. That would mean 2 early redzone trips for Austin resulted in 0 points.

Midway through the 2nd Quarter, Caldwell and the Bliss offense would take over on downs at its own 17-yard line. Caldwell proved her doubters right, after three consecutive incomplete passes. The only success Caldwell would have would be on the ground, which included a 17-yard run, but it was Thompson that would once again carry the load. Thompson scored her 2nd Legends Cup touchdown of the night from the Austin 4 yard line, to extend Chicago’s lead to 12-0.

Before the half, the Acoustic offense would have one more shot and Winfrey would catch fire at the right time. Winfrey would complete 4 of 7 passes to get Austin to the Chicago 9 yard line, which would be their third 1st half visit to the redzone. The lack of game situational awareness of Winfrey would once again show, as Winfrey would waste a lot of time on the clock. To cap the misery of the Austin offense, Mike Olvera the offensive coordinator for some unknown reason decided to target his slowest player on the field, Center Steph McCormick, with a crossing pattern on a 4th & Goal. McCormick caught the pass but was brought down well short of the goal line by Alli Alberts.

So another promising Austin drive would end in disappointment inside the redzone. Heading into Halftime, the heavily favored Chicago Bliss held on to a 12-0 lead. A case could have been made for the game being tied or even Austin having the lead at Halftime.

To open the 3rd Quarter the unexpected would happen, Austin’s defense would come to life. Ana Garza and Kendria Robinson, the smallest players on the field, would make the biggest impact. The Acoustic defense would hold Chicago to a four and out series. Austin would take over in great field position at the Chicago 19 yard line.

On the very first play of the half for Austin’s offense, Winfrey would target Tight End Courtney Dowdy who made the biggest play of the night for the Austin offense, a 19-yard touchdown reception to make it a 4pt game at 12-8.

Give Chicago’s offense credit, when it appeared the momentum had shifted and the wheels were possibly coming off, Caldwell made the biggest play of the Chicago season with her arm. Caldwell found the rookie Tamika Robinson with a 26-yard completion, placing it perfectly over the defender and hitting Robinson in stride. The Robinson completion and run set up Thompson’s 3rd touchdown run of the night, which would extend Chicago’s lead to 20-8.

The pressure would go back squarely onto the shoulders of Winfrey, who much like Caldwell was untested in the post-season until 2018. Winfrey and Austin would go four and out at perhaps the most crucial time of the game. Right before the end of the 3rd Quarter, Chicago responded with a back-breaking 5 play 15-yard drive with a Thompson’s now 4th rushing touchdown of the night, taking advantage of great field position.

Despite a 28-8 Chicago lead going into the 4th Quarter, you could not count out the most exciting offense in the LFL. In true Austin form, they would mount a rally in the 4th Quarter which would keep Chicago scoreless with (2) four and out series. While the Austin offense finally found its groove with two 4th Quarter Winfrey touchdown passes of 5 yards to Leilani Lopez and a 1-yard strike to Bills (which she held on to). After the two Winfrey touchdown passes, Austin once again drew close at 28-20.

It would come down to an onside kick, Austin kicker Aubrey Williams would sail the kick into the crowd, giving Austin no shot at a recovery. Tears came down the faces of Jayne Caldwell, Ana Garza, and Steph McCormick. For Caldwell, they were tears of joy, having finally gotten the monkey off her back with a Legends Cup championship.

For Garza and McCormick, perhaps the realization of being so close to a goal, yet having it snatched from your reach. As the final seconds ticked off the clock, the confetti started pouring down on Chicago and their 4th Legends Cup title, as Austin would walk off the field in tears and disbelief.

A game that was to be a blow-out, turned out to be one of the more competitive championship games in LFL history. Several self-inflicted wounds killed Austin’s hopes alongside poor officiating that often went against Austin.

As you look to 2019, the Acoustic have to feel good about where they are, especially if they can sign Quarterback Michelle Angel in free-agency. With the offensive weapons the Acoustic have, the best offensive mind in the game in Mike Olvera and a vastly improved defense, the signing of Angel could make Austin the favorite to have confetti pouring down on them on this stage in September 2019.

For Chicago, 2019 will be an interesting season, can they rebound from the retirement of Alli Alberts and Dominique Collins, half of their defensive secondary. Has the rest of the league caught up to Chicago, considering it took a miracle goal-line interception to beat Nashville and having to hold on to beat Austin.

On this night, what mattered most for Chicago was not 2019, but hoisting their 4th Legends Cup trophy and once again standing upon the mountain top of the LFL.

Chicago Austin
Score 28 19
First Downs 12 10
Rushes-Yards (Net) 28-96 12-32
Passing Yards (Net) 61 110
Passes Att-Comp-Int 11-4-0 29-17-1
Total Offense Plays-Yards 39-157 41-142
Fumble Returns-Yards 0-0 0-0
Kickoff Returns-Yards 0-0 0-0
Interception Returns-Yards 1-2 0-0
Fumbles-Lost 1-0 0-0
Penalties-Yards 6-45 5-32
Possession Time 25:00 17:03
Third-Down Conversions 2/7 1/8
Fourth-Down Conversions 1/4 2/6
Red-Zone Scores-Chances 4/4 2/5