The 2013 Calgary Fillies: the team that never was

A growing sign of the popularity of women’s football in the province of Alberta was signified by the announcement of Calgary Fillies becoming the new franchise in the Canadian division of the Legends Football League. An even greater sign of encouragement was the fact that several elite competitors from the Western Women’s Canadian Football League had joined the team.

With the province of Alberta serving as one of the hotbeds for women’s tackle football, the Fillies had all the ingredients for success. Planning to compete out of the Stampede Corral, it was also going to be the host venue for the LFL Canada championship game. Of note, the WWCFL has five teams in the province. Perhaps more impressive is the fact that the region of Sexsmith, Alberta has a competitive high school girls tackle football division.

Susan Stefan and Brigette Massaoud

Hamming it up before a photo shoot

While the Fillies were poised to run on that remarkable momentum, there were unforeseen obstacles. Like any expansion franchise, there are bound to be setbacks, organizational roadblocks and growing pains. Susan Stefan, a tight end who was assigned number 14 for the Fillies, nearly suffered a torn ACL. Sadly, it was a sign of ominous things to come. Regrettably, a decision to reduce the season in order to help teams better prepare caused unexpected friction.

Unfortunately, several players and volunteers decided to not suit up over a variety of other numerous issues. While the league made a valiant effort to organize a new series of tryouts, other circumstances led to a visceral decision to postpone play for a significant time.

Tanya Henderson and Hayley Quesnel

Bringing a determined look

Sadly, harsh words and criticism of the LFL were on social media along with print. With due deference to those who support tackle football, injuries are part of the cost of playing the game. The involvement of women from the WWCFL would have been mutually beneficial for both leagues.

As Canada is ten times smaller than the US in terms of population, the market for football is not as large. Players who could excel in both the LFL and WWCFL would help generate interest in both leagues. There is no question that athletic yet beautiful women such as Tanya Henderson of the Edmonton Storm, along with Kora-Lea Vidal and Jennifer McLean of the Calgary Rage would have seen their popularity grow.

Sierra Scott Steinback

Sierra Scott Steinback

Of note, other players from the Rage, notably rookie running back Lisa Gomes had volunteered to serve as a trainer for the Fillies. It was a sign that there was a serious commitment to help the game grow in Calgary. Outgoing head coach Jarrod Neufeld had spoken highly of the WWCFL veterans and their presence in early training camps. He was also of the opinion that Cheyanna Rusk had the potential to become a star for the team.

Vidal had an incredible opportunity to make Canadian women’s football history. Had the season occurred, she would have become the first athlete to have played on the Canadian national football team, the WWCFL and LFL Canada. Having also done some modeling, there is no question that Vidal would have emerged as a fan favorite.

Perhaps another star in the making, Brigette Massaoud (who was given number 13) certainly captured the imaginations of fans. Having worked as a fitness model and competitor, she would have entered the season as another well-known athlete.

While it is true that the uniform and the indoor style of play may not be for everyone, women’s tackle football must face the LFL as an ally and not an enemy. Considering that both leagues are significantly growing, co-existing is an essential part of helping maintain fan interest.

Cheyanna Rusk

Cheyanna Rusk

A reality of the sporting conversation in Western Canada is that junior hockey and professional hockey not only co-exist, but sometimes help promote each other. With the impact of social media, there is no question that there will be other women from tackle football that will one day expand their scope and compete in the LFL.

Although all signs point to a bright future in Alberta for women’s football, the decision to postpone the 2013 LFL Canada season to 2014 was not an easy one for the league. For now, the wound is still raw and must heal.

While Calgary football fans wait a little longer for LFL football to invade their city, the lessons learned and opportunities for an even better product will only provide better benefits long-term. Perhaps the most significant observation of the 2013 edition of the Fillies is that the potential for greatness is evident.

Proposed Schedule
September 14: Regina Rage @ Calgary Fillies
September 28: Calgary Fillies @ Saskatoon Sirens
October 5: Calgary Fillies @ Regina Rage
November 9: Saskatoon Sirens @ Calgary Fillies
Legends Cup
November 16: Venue: Stampede Corral

Roster
NOTE: This is an incomplete list

0: Kendall Fellinger
1: Tanya Henderson
3: Kora-lea Vidal
5: Hayley Quesnel
7: Tamara Sands
11: Jennifer McLean
12: Sierra Scott Steinback
13: Brigette Massaoud
14: Susan Stefan
15: Tenille Lowry
16: Lyndsay Delay
17: Cheyanna Rusk
Victoria Bradford
Hope Pauliuk

US Free Agent Signings
Angela Rypien, Quarterback, Baltimore Charm
Theresa Petruziello, Wide Receiver/Safety, Cleveland Crush
Tamar Fennell, Running Back/Corner Back, Cleveland Crush

Head coach: Jarrod Neufeld
Trainer: Lisa Gomes
Team manager: Daniel Reaume

#calgary-fillies, #lfl-canada

Natalie Jahnke of the Los Angeles Temptation emerging as a pop culture icon

As the Legends Football League continues to grow, one of its remarkable talents is Natalie Jahnke. More than just an athlete, she is a pop culture icon that you have likely seen as a spokesperson for Harley Davidson. With a background in both marketing and modeling, she has brains to complement her beauty.

February 5, 2012: Post-game jubilation for Jahnke after a 28-6 triumph over the Philadelphia Passion (Ethan Miller/Getty Images North America)

February 5, 2012: Post-game jubilation for Jahnke after a 28-6 triumph over the Philadelphia Passion (Ethan Miller/Getty Images North America)


Hailing from Rancho Cucamonga, the blonde haired 24 year-old is the ultimate California Girl. Towering in at 5’10”, Jahnke is a three-time LFL champion with the Los Angeles Temptation. Prior to her gridiron glories, other athletic endeavors included softball, basketball and competing in roller hockey against boys.
Natalie Jahnke and Allison Steinkamp are the Harley Davidson Racing girls. Shot at Raceway Sonoma, NHRA Nationals. Image by : Robert Redmond

Natalie Jahnke and Allison Steinkamp are the Harley Davidson Racing girls. Shot at Raceway Sonoma, NHRA Nationals. Image by : Robert Redmond


Donning number 16 for the Temptation, she competes primarily at the center position. While it may be one of the most thankless positions in all of football, she is an integral component in ensuring that the Temptation’s high-powered offense runs smoothly.

Testament to her popularity as a player is the fact that she is one of the LFL’s ambassadresses during their highly popular global tours. Having visited exotic locales such as Manila in the Philippines, the 23 year-old has also done interviews about the LFL for Playboy Brazil. Of note, she has also assisted in LFL Canada with game day production.
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Her drive to succeed coupled with ambition not only makes her an ideal teammate but a role model for young female athletes. She embodies the empowering concept that a female athlete can be competitive while remaining feminine (LFL players do wear make-up for games).

Although Jahnke is not a brand name (just yet), her down to earth attitude and positive outlook on life generates positive energy. Highly motivated, it is only a question of time before her star shines even brighter. For now, LFL fans are happy to have her gracing the gridiron as a strong woman that proves dreams can come true.

#los-angeles-temptation, #natalie-jahnke

Football pioneer Erin DiMeglio sidelined in her hardcourt ambitions

As a third-string quarterback for South Plantation High School near Fort Lauderdale, Florida, Erin DiMeglio became a household name during the fourth quarter of her squad’s season opener on August 31, 2012. Taking two snaps for the Paladins in a 31-14 win versus Nova, she became a media darling as she was the first female quarterback to compete in a Florida varsity boys football game. She followed it up with a pass completion in a September 21, 2012 win over Piper High School.

Getting prepared to be named Homecoming Queen, Photo credit: Photographer: Robert Duyos, Sun Sentinel

Getting prepared to be named Homecoming Queen, Photo credit: Photographer: Robert Duyos, Sun Sentinel

After her historic accomplishment, the accolades poured in. In addition to being named Homecoming Queen in an October 11 win over Hollywood Hills (ironically, the Homecoming King was her teammate, wide receiver Hordley Seide), she was recognized with The Miami Herald Excellence Award at the All-Broward Athletic Awards. Her senior class at Plantation voted her as Most Athletic.

Image obtained from: http://www.opposingviews.com/i/sports/other-sports/erin-dimeglio-looks-make-history-florida-high-school-s-1st-girl-quarterback

Image obtained from: http://www.opposingviews.com/i/sports/other-sports/erin-dimeglio-looks-make-history-florida-high-school-s-1st-girl-quarterback

In addition, GTM Sports representatives, the New York Times, Sports Illustrated Kids and People Magazine showered her with national recognition. The Congressional Record also made mention of her. Representative Lois Frankel, a Democrat from West Palm Beach mentioned her in a March 2013 speech as recognition of Women’s History Month. Of note, she even had the opportunity to fly out to California and make an appearance on the Nickelodeon show Figure It Out.

Despite her parents’ concerns about injuries on the gridiron, she actually suffered more injuries on the hardcourt. Measuring in at 5 feet 5 inches and 140 pounds, she was also a star point guard on Plantation’s girls high school team. During her basketball tenure, she suffered from a broken nose, a torn labrum, dislocated fingers and a concussion.

Currently enrolled at Central Florida, her athletic endeavors have temporarily been sidelined. Having earned a $20,000 scholarship from Foot Locker’s Scholar Athlete Program, her goal was to earn a spot as with the CFU Lady Knights as a walk-on.

Once the roster was announced, it was disappointing to see that DiMeglio’s name was not listed. Majoring in biology at UCF, it is difficult to determine if an incident in June 2013 derailed her ambitions. Sadly, she was charged with battery in a domestic violence case on June 28, 2013. Booked at 4:13 am, it was a first degree misdemeanor. Little is known as to what led to the arrest but it is very common for athletes to be targets due to their popularity.

Although tackle football and basketball are on the back burner for now, fans can only hope that they have not heard the last of DiMeglio. In addition to the possibility of continuing in recreational flag football to maintain her arm strength and accuracy, there will definitely be a handful of teams in the Women’s Football Alliance and the Independent Women’s Football League waiting for her services.

Most of the quarterbacks in the WFA and IWFL competed in other sports during college. The most famous example may be Allison Cahill of the Boston Militia. She was once a stand-out on the hardcourt with the Princeton Tigers.

As one of the pioneers in football for women, DiMeglio is certainly one to look for at a future IFAF Women’s World Football Championships. There is no question that with her athleticism and long-time quarterbacking skills that she could one day be worthy of consideration for a roster spot with the red, white and blue.

For now, not competing with UCF in the upcoming basketball season may prove to be a blessing in disguise. With a 2012 that was exciting yet overwhelming, perhaps the time away from the spotlight will provide her with a renewed sense of focus. The arrest was an unfortunate affair but it should not tarnish her image or affect her ambitions.

With the goal of wanting to play NCAA women’s basketball, she has to establish herself all over again. The ability to withstand the setback and work harder to succeed is the difference in what makes a champion. Having made history as the first girl to play quarterback in a Florida high school football game, she has the tenacity and fortitude needed to make those goals come true.

#erin-dimeglio

Hardworking Theresa Petruziello represents smash mouth spirit of the Cleveland Crush

Having enjoyed a superlative season in 2013, Theresa Petruziello has established herself as one of the most valuable players on the Cleveland Crush. In a city that loves their sports, there is nothing more endearing to Cleveland fans than an athlete who plays with heart. Hailing from Collinwood, Ohio, she is a local sports hero that has done good.

She was nothing short of dominant during a 2013 season that saw Cleveland gain much needed confidence. During the Crush’s previous season (an 0-4 performance), Petruziello logged 150 yards receiving and six touchdowns, along with 13 solo tackles on defense. That strong momentum definitely continued into 2013.

Waving the red, white and blue in the Crush Pound (Image obtained from: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Theresa-Petruziello-Fan-Page/184378314957122)

Waving the red, white and blue in the Crush Pound (Image obtained from: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Theresa-Petruziello-Fan-Page/184378314957122)

Competing as a wide receiver and a strong safety, the 28 year-old Petruziello was a one-woman wrecking crew. An All-Fantasy Selection, her strong offensive game featured six touchdowns complemented by a brilliant defensive output, which resulted in 20 total tackles.

While there is no denying Tamar Fennell’s contribution to Cleveland’s season, Petruziello’s strong season and contagious charisma takes the burden of leadership off her shoulders. Averaging 14.7 yards per catch, she would emerge as one of the club’s primary weapons in the passing game.

Petruziello would finish as Cleveland’s receiving leader, leading the club in three categories: receptions (6), receiving yards (88) and receiving touchdowns (4). With Tia Knipper as a rookie competitor at the quarterback position, Petruziello’s presence was able to help her adjust to the game while giving her a steady receiving target. In Knipper’s LFL debut, a 49-40 road loss on May 18 vs. the Atlanta Steam, Petruziello caught three touchdown passes.

In action against the Atlanta Steam. (Image obtained from: http://www.lflus.com/games/cleveland-crush-vs-atlanta-steam/attachment/directorleague-photographer-131)

In action against the Atlanta Steam. (Image obtained from: http://www.lflus.com/games/cleveland-crush-vs-atlanta-steam/attachment/directorleague-photographer-131)

The second game of the season would emerge as Petruziello’s finest hour. With the Cleveland franchise having never won a game in franchise history, their home opener would be the perfect setting for a landmark moment.

Competing against the Omaha Heart at Quicken Loans Arena, Petruziello shined. Containing Heart running back Rayna Berryman, it set the tone of the game. Laying out hit after punishing hit on defense, she would also contribute on the offensive side of the ball. With seven minutes remaining, she caught a touchdown pass from Knipper to extend their lead over Omaha to a 12-0 tally.

Fittingly, she would be named the Game’s Most Valuable Player in a landmark event in franchise history. With Cleveland’s end zone paying homage to the NFL Browns as its dubbed the Crush Pound, Petruziello may be its most popular player. Her de-cleating hits against the Omaha Heart only built her legend as one of the league’s fiercest hitters.

Leading the Crush to their first-ever franchise victory with a 12-0 defeat of the Omaha Heart. (Image obtained from: http://www.lflus.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/061413_OHAvsCLE_EP_0860-XL.jpg)

Leading the Crush to their first-ever franchise victory with a 12-0 defeat of the Omaha Heart. (Image obtained from: http://www.lflus.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/061413_OHAvsCLE_EP_0860-XL.jpg)

Although the final two games of the season were losses against eventual playoff teams Baltimore and Philadelphia, said losses were by less than eight points each. Of note, Cleveland held considerable leads in both games.

The loss against Baltimore found backup quarterback Tiffany Soggs lining up behind center for Cleveland. Her touchdown pass to Petruziello gave the Crush an 18-6 lead. In the loss versus Philadelphia, Petruziello scored the first touchdown of the game while Cleveland built up a 20-7 halftime lead.

While the more experienced Baltimore and Philadelphia teams mounted comebacks, it was a tremendous step in Cleveland’s development. Such valiant performances are the foundation upon which a winner may come to pass in the near future.

With the impression that Petruziello and Fennell made as the foundation for an explosive offense and a stout defense, it was no surprise that they were recruited to compete for LFL Canada’s expansion franchise; the Calgary Fillies. While the Canadian season was delayed until 2014, the thought of this dynamic duo competing north of the border would have certainly spoiled Calgary’s football fans.

In the meanwhile, the city of Cleveland has a football hero they can be proud to call one of their own. Whether you call her Terrific Theresa or Punishing Petruziello, she is a force to be reckoned with. With the thrill of helping the Crush earn their first franchise win, the following season may bring with it an even greater reward; a trip to the postseason.

#cleveland-crush, #tamar-fennell, #theresa-petruziello

Chloe Butler to emerge as the It Girl of LFL Australia

As a three-time champion with the Los Angeles Temptation in the Legends Football League, Australian-born Chloe Butler is ready to showcase her gridiron skills back home. Poised to become the elite star in the inaugural season of LFL Australia, which launches December 7, 2013, she is definitely the face of the league.

Donning the colors of the Los Angeles Temptation (Image obtained from: http://www.lflus.com/latemptation)

Donning the colors of the Los Angeles Temptation (Image obtained from: http://www.lflus.com/latemptation)

A native of Queensland, the 5’11” beauty pulls double duty as a wide receiver and a defensive end. The highlight of her career may have come in 2012. With a series of LFL All-Star games being held in Australia, Butler was the captain of the LFL Western Conference All-Stars. In addition, she was also named as the LFL’s ambassador for the new Aussie league.

While the 2013 LFL US campaign did not provide Butler with her fourth straight Legends Cup, the 25 year-old managed to appear in two games while providing solid contributions on defense. In the first game of the season, Butler was one of the key figures in defeating the eventual league champion Chicago Bliss.

Image obtained from: https://www.facebook.com/NewSouthWalesSurge

Image obtained from: https://www.facebook.com/NewSouthWalesSurge

In two games, Butler recorded five solo tackles, a sack, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery. Along with the inactivity of Liz Gorman, the Temptation lost two key members on defense. Had the two remained healthy, a fourth title would have been very feasible.

Gracing the gridiron as one the competitors for the New South Wales Surge, Butler will be reunited with Temptation teammate, and 2013 Mortaza Award winner, Monique Gaxiola. Although there will be a handful of other LFL US players making the journey Down Under for this exciting and electrifying first season, the familiarity between Butler and Gaxiola ensures that Surge fans will be treated to top quality football. Both employ a team-first approach and dedicate themselves to giving their clubs an opportunity to compete for championships.

While this represents a new path in Butler’s remarkable journey as an LFL superstar, the opportunity to compete on home soil is one that brings with it tremendous pride. As the four-team league will have franchises competing in Adelaide, Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney, her impact in LFL US has helped to attract many ambitious Aussie athletes in competing.

Prior to her gridiron glories, Butler was a sprinter hoping to compete at the London 2012 Summer Games in the 400-meter hurdles. Her blazing speed is evident for anyone that has tried to run against her in the LFL. With a share of injuries that prevented her from pursuing her gold medal dreams, football offered an alternative.

Such an alternative is attracting another significant female athlete from Australia to don the LFL shoulder pads. Charlotte van Veenendaal, a Summer Games sprinter is one of Butler’s teammates on the Surge. The theme of the Surge season may very well be “Speed Kills” as they are quickly emerging as a pre-season favorite.

Although there is no denying Butler’s visual appeal, she is a tough as nails competitor whose effort to go the extra mile on the gridiron may earn her recognition as a household name in Australian sports. With thousands of fans already following LFL Australia on social media, Butler may emerge as a brand herself. From America to Australia, her role as an ambassador for the sport is one that brings with it all the tools to succeed.

#chloe-butler, #lfl-australia, #los-angeles-temptation, #monique-gaxiola, #new-south-wales-surge

Heather Furr part of historic season in Chicago women’s football

For the first time in women’s football history, the same city has won both the Women’s Football Alliance national championship and the Legends Football League’s Legends Cup. Having started with Sami Grisafe leading the Chicago Force to a title over the Dallas Diamonds, the bookend is Heather Furr with the LFL’s Chicago Bliss.

Photo credit: Eddie Perlas

Photo credit: Eddie Perlas

As the Force overwhelmed the Dallas Diamonds by a score of 81-34, the Bliss had the opportunity to complete the rare double. In their first-ever appearance in the Legends Cup, Furr and the Bliss did not relinquish their lead once in their win over the Philadelphia Passion.
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With the Passion led by Christy Bell (only the second quarterback to lead her team to three straight LFL title games), both teams were looking to win their first-ever Legends Cup. Having thrown two interceptions in her first three passes of the title game, Bell was unable to mount a comeback.
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Chicago Force celebrate their WFA National Title. The first of two women’s football championships for the Windy City in 2013. Image obtained from: https://www.facebook.com/chicagoforce/timeline?filter=3

Chicago Force celebrate their WFA National Title. The first of two women’s football championships for the Windy City in 2013. Image obtained from: https://www.facebook.com/chicagoforce/timeline?filter=3

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Statistically, Grisafe and Furr were among the elites of their respective leagues. Grisafe led the Women’s Football Alliance with 2582 passing yards, 32 touchdown passes and 158 pass completions. In addition, she finished third among WFA pivots with a 131.3 passer rating. She was the heartbeat of a Force offense that averaged 61.9 points per game during an undefeated season. Grisafe would finish her WFA season recognized as the Most Outstanding Player on Offense in her conference.
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Playing on offense and defense, Furr’s numbers were nothing short of solid. Furr ranked third in passing with a 91.2 passer rating. With a 52.6 completion percentage, she also contributed with 5 rushing touchdowns to rank second on the Bliss.
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defensively, she was also a force to be reckoned with. Her 29 total tackles led the squad while tying for first in all of LFL. In addition, her 4 interceptions also tied for first overall. It was hardly a surprise when she was recognized as the LFL’s Most Valuable Player for 2013.
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Heading into the season, there were several unique parallels between Furr and Grisafe. Ironically, both have worked as bartenders in order to pay the bills. From a football perspective, both were renowned for their leadership and presence, although neither pivot had led their football team to a championship.
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In 2012, Grisafe led the Force to the 2012 WFA National Title Game against the San Diego Surge. Contested at Heinz Field, it was the first WFA title game held in an NFL stadium. Despite a high octane offense, the Force was bested by a Surge team led by Jessica Javelet.
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Furr spent her 2012 with the Saskatoon Sirens of the Canadian division of Legends Football League. While Furr contributed primarily as a receiver and defensive back (due to Anne Erler as quarterback), she was a key factor in the Sirens qualifying for the league’s championship game. Despite being regular season champions, Furr and her teammates were defeated by the BC Angels.
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In the first game of the 2013 LFL season, the Bliss was defeated 31-18 by the three-time defending champion Los Angeles Temptation. Despite the disappointment, Furr and the Bliss showed great composure, enjoying a six-game winning streak that culminated with the league championship. Victories over key opponents such as Las Vegas, division rivals Minnesota and Green Bay (which features Erler) were complemented by postseason redemption versus LA and an upset of the undefeated Seattle Mist. <p>
Perhaps Furr’s greatest legacy was her ability to help legitimize the LFL as a true sport. With a college basketball background, Furr is one of the athletes who proved that there was substance beyond the visual stimuli.
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Although the NFL’s Bears might be the king in Chicago football, the fearless females of the gridiron have shown that women are equally capable of providing high quality, entertaining football. Complemented by the Chicago Blackhawks Stanley Cup victory earlier this year, Chicago has once again emerged as the City of Champions.
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While there were other women like Ashley Berggren with the Force and ChrisDell Harris with the Bliss that were instrumental in their team’s title wins, the pressure and expectation that comes with winning and losing rests solely on the quarterbacks shoulders. Despite the pressure, Grisafe and Furr handled it with grace and determination.
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While Grisafe has decided to retire from the WFA in order to pursue her singing career (she was part of the pre-Grammy nominations in 2013), female football fans can only hope that Furr is not ready to hang up her helmet just yet. Although female football is still in its growing stages, Furr and Grisafe were two of the game’s builders. Their determination helped to inspire and empower young female athletes to follow their dreams. These dual championships not only solidify the legacy of women’s football in Chicago, but their careers as solid leaders and strong women.

#chicago-bliss, #heather-furr