In the much anticipated match-up between two of the biggest rivals in the Legends Football League, ChrisDell ‘Ferrari’ Harris showed why she is one of the most dominant running-backs the league has ever seen as she rushed for 161 yards on 22 carries scoring all four of the Bliss touchdowns on Saturday, as the Bliss beat the Steam 29-13 in a game that was much closer than the score.
This rivalry has been referred to as ‘War of the Worlds’ as there is much bad-blood between Atlanta and Chicago, which starts with the animosity between head coaches Dane Robinson of Atlanta and Keith Hac of Chicago. This rivalry began in last year’s Legends Cup Championship when the Bliss edged the Steam on a controversial call at the end of the game. Saturday was the third time in history these two teams faced each other, with Chicago holding all bragging rights now having been victorious in each of the three contests. But don’t expect this encounter to cool down anytime soon as the Bliss and Steam face each other again on August 15th, the final week of the season, and presumably the following weekend on August 22nd in the Eastern Conference Championship. The Steam will be looking for a way to stop the Chicago running game if they want to get their first taste of victory against the Bliss.
The weather was not what fans and players hoped for during Saturday’s game between the Steam and Bliss, but that didn’t stop the loyal Chicago Bliss fans from coming to Toyota Park in the wet and gloomy conditions.
Atlanta won the coin-toss and elected to receive, looking to strike first on Saturday. In their first series, Atlanta looked sharp as they drove down to the field using the running game and Dakota Hughes’ passing game to move the chains. After a holding penalty, the Steam sat 1st and 20 on the Bliss 24 yard line, when Hughes found Adrian Purnell for an 18 yard gain bringing them to the Bliss 6 yard line. After two short runs and a first down, Hughes connected with CoCo Montgomery for a short four yard touchdown pass, putting the Steam on the board first. After a Lauran Ziegler run for a completed extra-point, the Steam lead the Bliss 7-0.
It didn’t take long for Chicago to strike back as ChrisDell ‘Ferrari’ Harris took the ball twice rushing for a gain of 11 and then scored on a 24 yard pitch from quarterback Heather Furr. The extra-point was good on a Furr keeper up the middle, evening the score at 7-7 with just over three minutes remaining in the first quarter.
There wasn’t much going on in the second quarter for either team’s offense as dropped passes hindered the Steam’s attack and penalties along with poor execution kept the Bliss out of the end-zone. The highlight of the second quarter might have been Lauran Ziegler’s 44 yard punt to start of the quarter, pinning the Bliss deep behind their 1 yard line.
The 7-7 halftime score was certainly not expected as both teams possess offensive prowess, but it was certainly the chess-match everyone expected. Both team’s defenses came out strong hitting hard and making statements for one another.
During the halftime discussions for each team, it was clear neither side was content with the first half performance. Both coaches demand perfection and have no patience for penalties or sloppy play.
The second half started off ugly for the Bliss as a Ziegler squib-kick led to a Chicago fumble where Alfye Gore of Atlanta recovered near mid-field. After two plays the Steam had a 3rd and 3, when Hughes missed an unexpected snap from her center Dina Wojowski, as it sailed twenty yards to the five yard line, where Hughes picked it up, avoiding Bliss defenders and scrambled to find Adrian Purnell as she avoided the Chicago secondary and found the end-zone for a 24 yard touchdown reception. In what started off as the ugliest play of the night ended with a Steam touchdown that put them up 13-7 against the Bliss early in the second half. That remained the score after a Lauran Ziegler extra-point run was short of the goal-line.
It didn’t take long for Chicago to answer as the ‘Ferrari’ rushed on four of five Chicago’s play, before she found the end-zone from six yards out, bringing the score to 13-13. After a Harris extra-point run untouched, the Bliss took their first lead of the game, 13-14.
After that score, the Steam offense failed to find a sync, as fumbles, an illegal snap penalty and a offensive pass interference kept Atlanta from finding the end-zone. The poor offensive play by the Steam during the end of the third is something that is not seen from Atlanta very often.
At the end of the third quarter the the Bliss remained in the lead during this grudge-match on Saturday.
The beginning of the fourth quarter is where Chicago pulled their dagger and in less than 3 minutes of play nearly ended any chances of an Atlanta victory. ChrisDell ‘Ferrari’ Harris scored with 8:18 remaining and with a Heather Furr conversion for two on the extra point attempt with a run, the Bliss took a nine point lead making it a two score lead, as the Bliss went up 22-13.
Things got even worse for Atlanta’s chances at a comeback as another costly Nas Johnson fumble this season allowed the Bliss to takeover on offense. Johnson’s fumble in the week 1 loss to the Bliss was what hindered their chances at closing out that contest.
In only a minute and eighteen seconds, Chicago scored again on a Harris run when she pounded her way to the end-zone to take a commanding lead on the Steam with seven minutes remaining in the game. After a Furr extra-point run the Bliss lead the Steam by a score of 29-13 which was in-fact the final score of Saturday's game.
With four minutes remaining the Steam were at the Bliss 1 yard-line looking to score, when their chances at a comeback diminished, as a miss handled snap between Hughes and Wojowski led to a fumble recovered by the Bliss. All the Bliss had to do was control the ball and run out the clock, as Atlanta in-fact never regained possession in the final quarter.
This game was a statement game for the Bliss as they again edged Dane Robinson’s Steam, making him win-less against the Bliss in his and the Atlanta Steams three attempts. After the contest both teams showed great sportsmanship as they shook hands and shared final remarks about the contest.
Quarterback Dakota Hughes had a great performance passing as she completed 10 of 18 attempts for 99 yards with two touchdowns on the day. Her opposing quarterback was no “Rockstar” on Saturday as she threw 1 for 5 passing for 6 yards with no touchdowns, but a stellar performance wasn’t needed as her running-back and game MVP controlled the game rushing for an average of 7.3 yards per carry.
The Eastern Conference sits at Chicago 3-0, Atlanta 2-2, and Omaha 0-3 after the first five games of the season. As the league looks to the Western Conference match-ups between Los Angeles, Las Vegas, and Seattle for the next four weeks of LFL football, the Eastern Conference will have a break to work reflect on the first part of their season, get healthy, and improve on mistakes as the next eastern conference match-up is set for Saturday, June 13th when the Omaha Heart welcome in the Chicago Bliss to the Ralson Arena. Atlanta will have almost two months to prepare for their game with Omaha when they invite the Heart down to Georgia for Friday night football on July 10th.
– Text by Colton Cull, originally posted on LFL360.com
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