Exciting rebuild for Los Angeles Temptation

After a visceral fourth quarter in the 2015 Western Conference championship game, one in which the Seattle Mist emerged victorious in an intense see-saw battle that saw the lead change hands several times, it seemed like the beginning of a downward spiral for the Los Angeles Temptation. With quarterback Ashley Salerno suffering an injury in 2015, and her decision to not return for 2016, it was definitely the end of an era for the silver and black.

Despite such setbacks, the Temptation have shown resolve, managing to overcome their quarterback deficiencies and remain in the conversation for the Western Conference title. With head coach Tui Suiaunoa leading the way; its roster may prove to be even stronger than the ultra competitive squad that nearly captured the 2015 conference crown.

Cynthia Schmidt hoping for big things with Los Angeles Temptation (Image obtained from Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/LATemptation/)

Cynthia Schmidt hoping for big things with Los Angeles Temptation (Image obtained from Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/LATemptation/)

In the aftermath of the Las Vegas Sin ceasing operations, a remarkable number of players became available. Among them, the Temptation found solid leadership and proven performers in the likes of Cynthia Schmidt and Kelly Campbell, who will be entering her seventh season of football. Both prominent at the defensive back position, they should solidify a defensive backfield that will need to find ways to nullify the Mist’s passing attack. An added bonus is the fact that Schmidt is one of the league’s most popular players, an ambassador for the brand.

There will be also changes as the Temptation and Steam see an exchange of players. Amanda Ruller, who actually won a vehicle on The Price is Right while she was a player for the Temptation, is among one of the new faces in Atlanta. Despite losing a player with All-Fantasy potential, the consolation comes in the form of significant depth.

Jayne Caldwell, who established herself as an elite signal caller in her native Australia, will now battle for the starting quarterback job with Michelle Angel, who filled in admirably for Salerno during her recovery from injury. Another player from Atlanta will make her presence felt in the backfield as well. Running back Nas Johnson provides the Temptation with another power back possessing tremendous acceleration and cutback ability, ready to bolt out of the backfield and punish opposing defenses.

While Carmen Bourseau, known affectionately as the F-150, deserves to be the starting running back for the Temptation, a role she has held for several seasons, the addition of Johnson alleviates the load of having to carry the running game by herself. Taking into account that Danika Brace, a former teammate of Bourseau when the two played for the Las Vegas Sin, is returning to the defending champion Seattle Mist, two running backs may serve as the key to overpowering the dominant Mist defense. Such strategy will be put to the test on April 24 as the Temptation host the Mist in their home opener.

On the topic of the Mist, the Temptation may have altered the balance of power in the Western Conference for many seasons to come with the acquisition of Kadi Findling. Having graced the gridiron with the Mist in her rookie season, Findling quickly made an impression. Earning Western Conference All-Fantasy honors (as a rookie no less), she joined a group of fellow Fantasy selections to compete in an All-Star Game in Guatemala.

Although Findling was considered a quarterback of the future for the Seattle Mist, she showed tremendous proficiency at the defensive back position. Such versatility makes Findling an important part of the Temptation’s plans to return to glory, seeking an elusive championship.

Despite an injury shelving her for a few weeks, Findling already brought excitement as she was also competing for the quarterback position in Los Angeles, in which one could make instant comparisons to Heather Furr. One of the greatest players in the history of the Chicago Bliss, Furr had that rare athletic gift to excel at both the demanding quarterback slot while making a significant impact at the defensive back position. Should Findling match Furr’s success, she may be destined to follow Salerno’s legacy and usher in a new glorious era for the silver and black.

#amanda-ruller, #ashley-salerno, #carmen-bourseau, #jayne-caldwell, #kadi-findling, #los-angeles-temptation, #nas-johnson

Legendary quarterback Ashley Salerno truly one of a kind

As the New Year signifies tryouts for Legends Football League teams, the Los Angeles Temptation have found themselves facing significant change, especially at the quarterback position. Having once boasted significant depth at the position, the biggest offseason challenge is finding a signal caller that can transition into a new era, while finding a way to honor a previous era defined by three Legends Cup championships.

AshleySalernoLA

Such a road to glory was defined by legendary quarterback Ashley Salerno. While her peers included superlative talents such as Linda Brenner, Christy Bell, Anne Erler, Heather Furr, Nikki Johnson and KK Matheny, all franchise players in their own right, it was Salerno who set the gold standard. Lining up behind center, she helped establish the Temptation as the first dynasty in league history, with three championship banners to show for their dominance.

Only adding to her legend was the fact that she was not only durable, tough enough to receive the most punishing of hits, she could give them too, earning herself a feared yet respected reputation. During the 2013 season, one that signified a transition throughout the league as several teams consisted of new faces, Salerno provided Chicago Bliss rookie Alli Alberts with a “Welcome to pro football” moment.

The result was a viral video that turned both of them into online sensations, inextricably linked during that season. Quite possibly the most famous hit in the history of the league, there were 381,000 views in a time span of roughly one year. Although Alberts had contemplated retirement, she would bounce back to become one of the league’s most popular stars, capturing two Legends Cup titles in the process.

While her Legends Football League career is definitely Hall of Fame worthy, it was not Salerno’s first exposure to the gridiron. Not only were five formative years spent playing with males, she would enjoy four seasons of Jr. All-American Football with the Chino Hills Bulldogs. Of note, Chino Hills would be the sight of another milestone in her great gridiron career.

Attending Ruben Ayala High School, she would make history as the first female to start at the quarterback position. While in high school, Salerno was not just focused on football. She would compete on the hardcourt with the basketball team while also holding roster spots with the school’s golf and soccer teams, respectively.

From a sporting perspective, Salerno may have been her most proficient on the soccer pitch. Competing at the goal keeper position, she gained a scholarship to Cal Poly Pomona, even earning a spot with US Soccer Olympic Development Program in 2004. Eventually, her soccer skills would land her a spot with the Claremont Stars in the WPSL.

While at Cal Poly Pomona, Salerno’s celebrity status as a quarterback with the Los Angeles Tempation proved that talent can never be truly hidden. Specializing in international business and marketing during her time there, her accomplishments outside the classroom were the stuff of gridiron legend.

Recognized as the Legends Football League’s Rookie of the Year for the 2010-11 campaign, she would log 610 total yards from scrimmage, consisting of 421 passing yards, complemented by 189 rushing yards, respectively. Such performance revolutionized the quarterback position in LFL play, while emulating the success of her pro football hero, Steve Young, formerly of the San Francisco 49ers.

Complemented by Most Valuable Player honors during one of the Legends Cup victories, one of the most admirable aspects of her gridiron journey was the fact that it was shared with another role model, her father Chris. Originally serving with the club as a medic, he would rise to a coaching position, subsequently strengthening the bond between daughter and proud father, while providing a calming influence.

As the first superstar quarterback in Legends Football League play, part of Salerno’s legacy can be defined by the fact that she emerged as a role model for young women with their own signal calling aspirations. After the league returned from a hiatus in 2012, Salerno’s influence could be seen in the seasons that followed. Young quarterbacks such as Sindy Cummings from the Las Vegas Sin and Atlanta Steam sensation Dakota Hughes followed in her footsteps, while building on her legacy.

Heading into the 2015 campaign, Salerno seemed poised for another great season, eager to avenge a 2014 Western Conference championship game loss. With the Temptation relocating from Ontario, California, now playing their home games at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, it should have signified a glorious return home for Salerno. Considering that the Temptation played there during her rookie season, she had matured into an even stronger leader since those early years.

Missing a significant part of an injury riddled 2015; it was Michelle Angel that would provide an admirable performance in absence of Salerno. While the Temptation managed a second place finish, winning 67% of their games, Salerno’s absence was evident as the club placed high dependency on its running game, led by All-Fantasy selection Carmen Bourseau.

Returning for the postseason, Salerno nearly brought the Temptation back to the Legends Cup, which would have been its first appearance since 2011. Losing by less than a touchdown, Salerno was relentless, continuously providing the club with a chance to win against archrival Seattle. In the aftermath, it would prove to be Seattle’s season, winning their first-ever title.

Although Salerno has never announced her retirement, rumors online have stated that she will not be returning for 2016. Taking into account that the season is still several months away, the possibility of Salerno returning cannot be discounted. Danika Brace had announced her retirement after the 2014 season, but returned in 2015, capturing Defensive Player of the Year honors, while leading the Seattle Mist to a championship. Perhaps a season spent resting will reignite Salerno’s competitive fires towards 2017.

Regardless of the final outcome, Salerno’s legacy is one without dispute. Defined by a magical time in which she was the face of the league, her humility and team-first approach only added to her likeability. From modest beginnings at a San Diego tryout to All-Fantasy Games the world over, Salerno shall always be revered as one of the most skillful signal callers, a fascinating character whose talent for the game set stimulated fan interest while setting a stirring tone for her teammates and an entire league.

#ashley-salerno, #los-angeles-temptation

Seattle Mist off to their first-ever trip to Legends Cup championship game

Quite possibly the signature rivalry in Legends Football League, the Los Angeles Temptation and Seattle Mist collided in the postseason for another year. Battling for the privilege of representing the Western Conferecne in the upcoming Legends Cup, the familiarity between the two ensured that the intensity would result in another epic confrontation. Adding to the excitement of the event was the fact that it was being contested at Toyota Park in suburban Chicago, the home field of the two-time defending champion Chicago Bliss.

Although the first quarter was a defensive struggle (likely caused by rainy weather earlier in the day), Temptation quarterback Ashley Salerno logged the game’s first touchdown in the dying seconds of the first quarter. With Carmen Bourseau (known affectionately as the F-150) ramming the ball into the end zone for the two-point conversion, the Temptation enjoyed an eight-point lead.

Beginning the second quarter, Mist signal caller KK Matheny showed no signs of panic, which shall prove crucial against a punishing Chicago Bliss defense in the Legends Cup final. Finding Megan Hanson on a 22-yard scoring play, it set the tone for a career day for Matheny. With Mist charter member (and 2012 Legends Cup Canada champion) Jessica Hopkins successfully gaining the two point conversion, the Temptation’s lead had evaporated.

Hopkins would prove to be just as essential on the defensive side of the ball. Having played against Salerno for so many seasons, she was highly effective in breaking up numerous passing attempts, familiarity becoming a key theme.

Despite the Temptation struggling to mount an offensive attack, they managed to regain the lead with only 26 seconds in the second quarter. Successfully running through the middle, disabling the impact of the Mist defense, Sherri Awagah would not only score the Temptation’s second touchdown of the game, she would also manage the two-point conversion.

Even with few seconds remaining, Matheny capitalized, using it to her full advantage. Running out of bounds as a means of strategically stopping the clock, Matheny showed grace under pressure. With just five seconds, she found former Jacksonville Breeze teammates Bryn Renda for a touchdown. Throughout the season, the strong chemistry between the two has proven effective in hotly contested matches against the Temptation.

With just a two-point advantage heading into the third quarter, the Temptation’s dreams of an unprecedented fourth league championship were going to require some real aggression on both sdies of the ball. Instead, it was Seattle pushing closer to their goal, as Matheny managed to find Mele Gilmore for a touchdown pass. Showing great bravura, Matheny would run the ball in for the two-point conversion, as the Mist finally grabbed their first lead in the contest, ahead by six points in a 26-20 score.

Matheny’s efforts were preserved by two remarkable members of the Mist defense. Danika Brace, who is a nominee for both League MVP and Defensive Player of the Year honors showed her veteran skill on the gridiron, while rookie safety Kadi Findling was emulating Brace, bruising the Temptation with punishing hits.
Although Ashley Salerno had been frustrated by dropped passes, the Hall of Fame candidate showed why she is one of the greatest signal callers in league history. Finding Amber Reed on a 33-yard pass, it turned the momentum towards the Temptation’s favor.

Awagah pounded into the end zone as the Temptation reclaimed the lead with less than five minutes remaining.
Considering that the 2015 Legends Cup shall be contested in Seattle, the Mist did not want their archrivals to be competing for a championship on their home turf. Such motivation translated into Matheny making a strong case for the MVP Award. Connecting with Danika Brace on a 32-yard scoring play, it would prove to be the game winning score and Matheny’s fourth touchdown of the game.

Despite the win, it would prove to be hard earned. The Temptation regained the ball for one last scoring opportunity. Salerno masterfully picked apart the Mist defense, finding tight end Danielle Harvey, consuming 25 yards. With the ball positioned in the red zone, the Temptation opted for the running game.

Awagah was looking to break through the Mist’s defensive wall and find daylight in the end zone. Instead, she was the recipient of a hit by the underrated Megan Hanson, resulting in a fumble. With Lashaunda Fowler recovering the fumble at the Mist’s six-yard line, there were sighs of relief throughout the Mist’s sideline.

As important as Brace’s touchdown was, the fumble stood as the turning point of the game. Taking into account that it was the game’s only turnover, it could not have come at a more inopportune time for the Temptation. Such a play will haunt the squad throughout the offseason, making the road towards next season one to ponder what went wrong.

Statistically, the Temptation gained the advantage in various categories. In terms of possession time (24:47) and net rushing yards (73), the Temptation managed to convincingly outperform the Mist. As a side note, Carmen Bourseau (41 yards) had outrushed the Mist’s two leading rushers combined (Matheny and Schnoor: 38 yards). Logging more total offensive yards (154) and first downs (13), an argument can be made that the Temptation had a better game on paper.

References: LFL360

#ashley-salerno, #carmen-bourseau, #danika-brace, #jessica-hopkins, #kk-matheny, #legends-cup, #los-angeles-temptation, #seattle-mist