PASSION RELISHES UNDERDOG ROLE IN TITLE GAME
By: Kevin Scholla (LFL360.com)
The Passion is quite comfortable in Las Vegas. That’s because despite being far from home, the team is in a very familiar situation. Getting ready for a big game and feeling slighted along the way. Philadelphia is an underdog heading into Lingerie Bowl XIII Sunday. This shouldn’t come as much of a surprise. The team was buried in the preseason rankings, rated toward the bottom of the league. So, they used that as motivation and reeled off five straight wins. Now, they’re one victory away from a world championship.
The defending champion Temptation stands in Philly’s way. Los Angeles deserves all the praise being heaped upon them. They too are unbeaten and coming off an impressive showing against the Bliss in the playoffs. You can see why they may be favored slightly in the title match-up. But don’t tell that to the Passion. The green machine is sick and tired of being overlooked. Yet at the same time, they know it’s worked wonders for them.
Philadelphia WR/S Danielle Gassler credits some of her club’s success to constantly being the underdog. The team even had an ongoing mantra before each game in the locker room. “We would remind each other that we were ranked seventh in the preseason,” Gassler said. “Honestly, I don’t think it matters whether we’re ranked number one, number two, number ten, or number seven. We know how we play and we know where we should be ranked.” Sunday, Philadelphia has a chance to be ranked right at the top, undisputed.
Things won’t be easy, though. Los Angeles plays with lots of heart and fire. Plus, they feature a talented and deep roster. That alone should put them over the top, if you believe the woman who changed the momentum big time in the Western Conference playoff contest against Chicago. “The difference between us and Philly is that we don’t have just a couple great players,” said Melissa Margulies, the LA spark plug who returned the second half kickoff all the way for a touchdown this past Saturday in Jacksonville. “We can play with any of our girls and win a game.”
Many agree with Margulies’ assessment. They see L. A. as a powerhouse, top to bottom, and the Passion as a team of role players that do their part, while juggernaut Marirose Roach continues to play the starring role. Roach does plan on having a big say in the outcome of the Lingerie Bowl, but she also feels her teammates are just as important to winning ball games as she is. You can make that argument. The Passion has the likes of Tyrah Lusby and Jaleesa McCrary to run the ball if they need to spell Roach. Certainly two capable backs. There is no argument however against what Roach has done this year. The dynamic running back has run over defenses again and again while hitting about as hard as anyone on the defensive side of the ball.
Roach respects the Temptation. She admits they are a top team and deserve to be in the big game. That said, she doesn’t expect her team to falter a bit. “I cant say that L. A. is not going to have a game plan to stop us, but we’ve been able to switch it up when we’ve had to and make it work for us,” Roach said. “I’m very confident in what we do, and as long as we do it right, I don’t see how we can get off our game.”
Roach has been lauded for her punishing running style and her boat load of visits to the end zone, but she is quite the weapon on defense too. She’s not alone there. The Philadelphia ‘D’ is chock full of stars. McCrary is one of the best shut-down corners in the game and Heather Roy is enough to make opposing quarterbacks have nightmares. Gassler is another stand-out. Veterans like Lusby and Heather Perez have had their moments too. As a unit, this defense continues to make play after play. They also make ball carriers pay. The hits this squad has delivered this season have been simply bone crushing.
So what are the keys to victory? If you ask Roach, you get a ‘To Be Determined’. “I think its going to be all about executing and doing what we do well,” Roach told LFL360. “Right now, we just have to watch as much game film as possible.” While Roach targets the entire L. A. team, the Temptation targets Roach.
“We really need to wrap-up and force (Roach) to turn it up in the middle so we can get her caught in that whole mix and try to stuff her,” said Ashley Salerno. The Temptation signal caller, along with Roach, is one of the candidates this season for league MVP and Rookie of the Year.
As far as her role under center, Salerno wants to keep things as simple as possible against the ferocious Passion defense. ” I have to slow things down for my teammates,” Salerno said. “I have to be sure they hear me right in the huddle and make sure they’re lined up in the right spots.”
Both clubs seem to be brimming with confidence heading into the much anticipated battle of unbeatens.
Neither of the faces of the franchises are shying away either. “It’s going to be a challenge for (the Temptation),” Roach said. “I’m so confident in what we do and so far we’ve done it successfully.” Salerno credits Philadelphia for a super season, but she believes they’ve finally met their match. ” If we’re under control and we work as one unit, no one can stop us,” Salerno said.
Something has to give. An undefeated champion will crowned Sunday. Who that champ is going to be, depends on whom you talk to.