OMAHA LOOKS TO END ATLANTA STEAM’S SEASON IN A WIN OR GO HOME BATTLE
The 2019 Atlanta Steam (2-1) need a win Saturday night to get back to the postseason in hopes of attaining the long-awaited Championship. If it was any year except 2019, finishing out the season against Omaha would have been a breeze for Atlanta. However, this Heart team is no pushover and there are some around the league who believe Omaha can defeat Atlanta who is without their HOF wide receiver and defensive back Lauran Ziegler.
The Omaha Heart (2-1) handled the Nashville Knights and Denver Dream with ease. Their opener wasn’t pretty against the stacked Seattle Mist, however, the Heart quarterback sensation Lauren Crouch was starting her first game ever in the league. After settling in after the last three games, Crouch possesses a confidence and swagger the Steam view as dangerous.
The Atlanta Steam have a rookie to highlight as well. In three games the 5-foot tall, 100-pound rookie running back Nicole Hulce has averaged 6.1 yards-per-carry and has been a big part of the Steam production. Hulce has yet to score a touchdown, but expect Atlanta who is without Ziegler to use Hulce a lot on Saturday against the Heart defense.
Over the years Dakota Hughes has put up insane passing numbers against the Omaha Heart who were the league’s cellar dwellers for a number of seasons. The Heart this week won’t be a highlight reel provider for Hughes as this defense is about as solid as the Omaha defense that upset the dominant Jacksonville Breeze in 2013. On the season Hughes has thrown for 270 yards, 8 touchdowns, and only two interceptions.
Without Lauran Ziegler in their Week-9 game against Chicago, Hughes was not in top form as her favorite target was on the sidelines. Only completing 33% of her passes and throwing an interception against a lousy Bliss team, it was clear Hughes wasn’t comfortable in a Ziegler-less offense. Most expect that over the last seven weeks of practice, the Steam have improvised and prepared to execute with other receiving weapons at their disposal.
Michelle Marshall will need to step up in order for Atlanta to defeat Omaha. The free-agent from the Austin Acoustic coming off a great 2018 season, hasn’t shown up yet for the Steam offense. Marshall in three games has only 39 yards of production, 35 receiving yards, and 4 rushing yards. Marshall is yet to find the endzone. Expect Marshall to play a big part of any success Atlanta will have, and her heroic reception ability could play a big part of the contest.
The winner of this Week-15 matchup with clinch a playoff spot, likely a #3 seed. The loser of Saturday’s game will find themselves eliminated from postseason play at 2-2. Neither team has a tie-breaker over the 2-2 LA Temptation as LA has the head-to-head win against Atlanta and a much better point differential over Omaha if Omaha were to fall to 2-2.
Will Omaha get their first win against the Atlanta Steam in the biggest game ever for the Heart Franchise? Does Dakota Hughes get her Steam team back to the postseason and get back on track to attain the Legends Cup Championship? Week-15 will be a true postseason atmosphere as both teams face a win or go home scenario.
ARENA: Infinite Energy Arena – Duluth, GA
PLAYERS TO WATCH: Ana Garza, Lauren Crouch, Shekaela Stennis
Dakota Hughes, Nicole Hulce, Dina Wojowski
MATCHUPS TO WATCH:
– Dakota Hughes passing game without her favorite target Lauran Ziegler
– Heart WR Ana Garza matched up against Steam CB Amber Clark
– Lauren Crouch in her first playoff-type atmosphere
ALL TIME HEAD TO HEAD RECORD: Atlanta 5-0
– Lauren Ziegler – Knee – Out