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.

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Atlanta Steam’s Lauran Ziegler making a strong case for League MVP

Emerging as the best free agent acquisition of the offseason, Lauran Ziegler has displayed remarkable versatility, establishing herself as a dominant two-way threat in the same capacity as division rival Chicago’s Alli Alberts and Heather Furr. In the aftermath of the Jacksonville Breeze contracting, Ziegler, who was also a 2014 Eastern Conference All-Fantasy Selection, was part of a remarkable amount of talent became that became available via free agency.

While the Seattle Mist acquired quarterback KK Matheny and leader Bryn Renda, (both Flag Football Hall of Famers who played together in college), the remainder of the free agent class was quickly acquired by the Atlanta Steam. Strengthening an already impressive roster, the club signed the likes of Ziegler, Dina Wojowski and Adrian Purnell.

During Steam training camp, despite not having yet played one game for the Steam, Ziegler was named a co-captain on offense alongside 2014 Rookie of the Year winner Dakota Hughes. Such an honor is testament to Ziegler’s remarkable leadership abilities. Taking into account that she also serves as an assistant softball coach at Brevard Community College (where she once played as an All-American); it allows the Steam to have someone whose knowledge makes her a mentor on the gridiron for the younger players.

Defensively, Ziegler and Purnell have paid remarkable dividends for the Steam, rekindling the magic that made them All-Fantasy selections with the Breeze. On a defensive unit led by Leanne Hardin, whose 25.5 tackles are tops in the league, the former Breeze standouts have complemented her well. Also sitting among the top five tacklers in league play, Purnell (who has also competed in Australia) has registered 20.5 tackles, while Ziegler’s 18 rank fifth overall.

Along with Nas Johnson, the two comprise a balanced running game in which either can be employed as a weapon of choice. Despite only 68 rushing yards, Ziegler ranks fifth in the league, with Johnson in fourth spot with 119 yards. The ability to produce such strong offensive numbers certainly places Ziegler in a class of her own, while allowing the Steam the opportunity to execute creativity on offense, which may prove to be a crucial strategy against the rival Chicago Bliss in the Eastern Conference championship game.

Like Alberts and Furr, Ziegler’s remarkable productivity through the first four games of the season is also reflected in three different categories on the Legends Football League’s statistical leader board. Of note, Ziegler is the receiving leader with 17 catches and 6 touchdown receptions. Trailing behind her in both categories is Alberts.

Part of her resounding success may come from the training phenomenon known globally as CrossFit. Taking into account its impact among both male and female athletes, CrossFit has produced remarkable results, as evidenced by Ziegler’s ability to excel in late game situations. In a past interview with Shape Magazine, Ziegler was among a group of Legends Football League superstars that shared some of their favorite workout tips. Citing CrossFit, Ziegler mentioned how building up your stamina was the secret to efficiency in properly finishing assigned workouts in a limited time. Although she disclosed that her favorite move is the squat clean, she also gains enjoyment out of just plain weight lifting.

A statistical marvel, Ziegler warrants serious consideration for the league’s Most Valuable Player Award. She possesses more than just remarkable athletic gifts and strong leadership ability but a profound maturity. Considering the visceral rivalry that once existed between Jacksonville and Atlanta, it would have been easy for the free agent acquisitions to not blend in and contribute to infighting. Instead, Ziegler and the rest of her former sisters from the Breeze have contributed to a culture of confidence, strengthening the bonds of teammates and friendship, while allowing the Steam the opportunity to prevail in every contest.

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