Competing for the last time during the regular season, the battle for first place in the Western Conference promised to be intense. With the previous matches between the Los Angeles Temptation and the Seattle Mist resulting in road wins, home field advantage was not an assurance of a victory for the Mist.
With legendary quarterback Ashley Salerno still nursing her injuries, Michelle Angel was thrust into the role of starter once again. Making her second career start, she could not benefit from the presence of center Laura Barba, who was absent. Struggling on the Temptation’s first possession, the Mist took over within the first three minutes of the game.
Employing a diverse running game with the likes of Danika Brace, Mele Gilmore and Stevi Schnoor, it did not take long for the tensions to rise between these two heated rivals. Elements such as trash talking and shoving quickly became the norm, exemplifying the intensity of one of the league’s signature rivalries.
Seattle would eventually draw first blood. Elite quarterback KK Matheny connected with Mist charter member Jessica Hopkins on a 13-yard pass play. Hopkins certainly went the extra mile, evading three defenders for great field position at the five-yard line. On the next play, Matheny would find her former Jacksonville Breeze teammate Bryn Renda for the 6-0 advantage.
Many relentless hits on Matheny would emerge as a theme during the contest. Despite rarely being sacked so far this season, players such as Naja Christmas and Kimm Chase have been merciless, compounding to the existing tensions.
Of note, Seattle would reciprocate with a series of brutal hits. Although Carmen Bourseau maintained her status as the F-150 with a seven-yard run, her Temptation teammates were not so lucky. Backup defensive end Katie Whelan filled in admirably for Deanna Schaper-Kotter sacking quarterback Angel for a grueling 11-yard loss. Facing a fourth and thirteen, a five yard gain by LFL Hall of Famer Monique Gaxiola resulted in a bruising hit by Stevi Schnoor, who is also one of the LFL’s leading rushers, resulting in Seattle gaining possession of the ball.
With Seattle unable to assemble an offensive drive, the Temptation did not fail on this next possession. Bourseau would be the catalyst for the running game, attaining 28 yards on a 33-yard drive, including an 18-yard touchdown run. She would punctuate the drive with a run attempt for the extra point, providing the Temptation with a 7-6 advantage.
Showing grace under pressure, Matheny evaded Christmas and Chase with a superlative spin move, finding Renda for a 31-yard touchdown pass. It was a karmic payback for their dirty hits earlier in the game.
The remainder of the first half continued to maintain the magic of an energetic affair with more offensive fireworks. A nine-yard touchdown run by Sherri Awagah resulted in the Temptation regaining the lead by a 13-12 margin, while strategically consuming four minutes. With Seattle turning the ball over on downs, the Temptation were hoping to add to their lead. Hanson would rise to the occasion, forcing a fumble on Angel, with Whelan making the recovery.
In what would prove to be the turning point of the game, Seattle capitalized on the fumble recovery with a touchdown. Matheny wonderfully dissected the Temptation defense, finding Hanson on an eight-yard completion, adding to her own heroics. Renda would take the hand off from Matheny and power her way into the end zone, running behind a block by Hopkins for the 18-13 halftime lead.
Receiving the kick-off to begin the second half, Seattle capitalized quickly with a scoring drive consisting of six plays. Connecting with Hopkins on a 13-yard strike, Matheny continued her solid performance as the Mist extended their lead to 11 points.
Danika Brace would dominate defensively for the remainder of the game, compiling a game-high 11.5 tackles. Bringing tremendous enthusiasm to the gridiron, Brace has emerged as an emotional leader, making a strong case as the LFL’s Defensive Player of the Year. Adding to such a strong argument was the interception she made off of Angel on the Temptation’s next possession.
Despite the Mist turning the ball over on downs, Brace would elevate her already superlative game with another dominant showing. A 10-play drive by the Temptation did not yield positive results as Brace managed a resounding seven tackles, including three bruising hits that sent a strong message about the potential consequences of cheap shots on Matheny.
Running out the clock on the last drive of the game, the Mist garnered their first home win of the season, while clinching a playoff berth. Holding a one-game lead over the Temptation for the division crown, momentum is high. Taking into account that the Mist shall serve as the host franchise for the 2015 edition of the Legends Cup, it would be a fitting conclusion to a season that has seen the Mist build towards capturing its first championship in franchise history.