LFL

The Las Vegas Sin have made the playoffs once in their previous three Legends Football League seasons, which was during their expansion year in 2011-2012 when they finished the regular season unbeaten, but were defeated in the Western Conference Championship by the Los Angeles Temptation 27-18, who went on to win their third Legends Cup title that season. Since then, the Sin have only won two games, both against the Green Bay Chill, once in 2013 and again in 2014. After an 0-2 start this season, the Sin needed to win out the rest of their three games for a playoff berth. However, the Los Angeles Temptation put an end to any hopes of a miracle run for Vegas after they defeated the Sin 28-14 on Saturday night.

With the return of legendary coaches David ‘Biz’ Bizub and Tui Suiaunoa back in LA, the Temptation started the season with high expectations of getting back to their championship winning ways, when they won the first three LFL titles in league history. Saturday night, the Temptation looked primed for the playoffs with their performance against the talented Las Vegas Sin, as their victory sealed them a spot in the Western Conference Championship. A playoff run will be a true test this season for LA, as getting past their conference rival Seattle will be a difficult task and both Eastern Conference opponents would be a tough match-up in the Legends Cup. With the veteran talent and leadership on LA, many fans agree it’s hard to doubt the Temptation’s chances of winning their fourth Legends Cup this season.

Saturday’s game featured some of the top rookies in this season’s class and all have had a big impact so far this season. Naja Christmas and Kimm Chase of LA have become two important pieces of Tui Suianunoa’s defense. Their defensive line play has put pressure on both opposing quarterbacks KK Matheny and Sindy Cummings, and has helped LA defend the run. Both have the size and physical ability to become two of the top defensive-ends in the league. Las Vegas also features one of the top performing rookies with their running-back Dominique Maloy, who has impressed many across the league with her agility, speed and elusiveness.

The big story of the night was that LA’s veteran quarterback Ashely Salerno, who was listed as questionable with a back injury, did not play for the Temptation offense. Without Salerno, the Temptation had lost two straight games and had fallen to 2-2-1 on the season. Backup quarterback Michelle Angel was determined to get her first win at starting quarterback and get LA into the playoff’s where a Salerno return would be huge for their chances against Seattle.

With Ashley Salerno and Michelle Angel, Los Angeles fields two of the top-four ranked quarterbacks so far in this 2015 season. This depth is what teams need to get through long seasons like the current, which LFL teams have played more regular season games than past seasons.

Saturdays’s game was much closer than the 28-14 final score. Both teams had nearly the same amount of offensive yardage, LA with 185 and Vegas with 170, each with just less than 60 yards of passing. It was one of those games where if a couple plays go differently for each team, Las Vegas could have come out on top. LA fields a team with many veterans that have been in must-win situations and they have a lot of playoff experience, so the Temptation knew how and were able to make the plays needed to win Saturday’s game.

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With Michelle Angel starting the game under center for LA Saturday night, the Temptation started out on offense but failed to get their first drive rolling after turning the ball over on downs near midfield. But after the LA defense didn’t allow the Sin’s offense much opportunity after a ten yard sack on second down, leading to a four and out, LA’s offense took over again from the Sin 21 yard-line with 4:31 remaining in the first quarter.

The Temptation capitalized on a seven play scoring drive, when on a 4th & goal from the three yard-line, LA released both tight-ends while Vegas rushed three leaving Danielle Harvey wide open. Michelle Angel was able to find her for the first touchdown of the game. It appeared either Brittany Demery or Kia Ramos of Vegas made the wrong read on the release, which led to Harvey’s open space in the end-zone. After a failed extra-point attempt LA took a 6-0 lead as the first quarter came to an end.

The Sin took over on offense to begin the second quarter and on first down from their own 15 yard-line, Vegas went to Dominique Maloy. From a single set back formation, the Sin ran a counter off the left side and with an excellent block by receiver Brittany Henderson on Ogom Chijindu, Maloy was able to avoid a couple defenders and scamper her way 18 yards down to the LA 17 yard-line, where she was taken down by LA’s Chelsey Haardt and Delany Hall. The Sin on the next play went to Maloy again, this time on a shotgun formation handoff where Maloy shuffled past nearly five defenders before being taken down at the nine yard-line. After a short gain on second down, Vegas had a 3rd & 1 where Sindy Cummings was late to target her open receiver Cynthia Schmidt, and her weak pass was broken up by LA’s Danielle Harvey who quickly closed the space between her and Schmidt.

A delay-of-game penalty on fourth down put the Sin offense back five yards for a 4th & 6, that was not converted after Tamar Fennell ran the ball three yards short of the first-down marker, giving the ball back to the Temptation offense with 6:39 remaining in the second. This was the first of four chances in the red-zone that Vegas was unable to capitalize on in the game. They finished the night two of six scoring in the red-zone.

On LA’s next drive, they failed to get much going after a 13 yard Bourseau rush on first down and also on the drive tight-end Sherri Awagah dropped a wide-open pass in the deep flats. She would later make-up for the dropped pass with her big receptions later in the game. LA turned the ball over on downs with 3:03 remaining in the first half.

With no open receivers on first down, Sindy Cummings used her legs to gain eight yards where she lowered her shoulder into corner-back Ogom Chijindu who made the tackle despite being knocked back a yard from the impact. The next play Maloy again ‘wowed’ everyone in attendance on a 19 yard gain down to the one yard-line, nearly reaching the end-zone. Sindy Cummings finished the drive on the next play with a rush up the middle to even the score at 6. After a converted extra-point attempt rush by Cummings, the Sin took a 7-6 lead with 1:22 remaining at half.

LA quickly answered with an impressive five-play drive that featured a 14-yard rush by Bourseau, an 11-yard rush by Amanda Ruller, and 7-yard pass from Angel to Awagah that was just short of the end-zone. The drive was finished with a one-yard run by Awagah with 18 seconds remaining. After a two-point conversion attempt was completed, LA took a 14-7 lead.

With just 18 seconds left before half, the Sin offense came just five yards short of scoring as time ran out. On their first play Cummings connected with her 5’11” receiver Cynthia Schmidt, who possesses the best catch radius in the league, for a 22 yard gain down to the LA 13 yard-line. With seven seconds remaining Vegas went to Maloy who rushed for eight yards down to the five yard-line but no time remained for another play.

The 14-7 halftime lead by LA resembled their first game’s 13-6 halftime difference in favor of LA. With a lot at stake for both teams, this back and forth game battle was shaping up for a great second half.

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After the halftime break, Vegas received the ball from LA and began at their 16 yard-line. The Sin put together a nice drive with five consecutive run plays, when on a 3rd and 5, Cummings again connected with her receiver Cynthia Schmidt for a fifteen yard gain down to the LA 2 yard-line. Two plays later on second and goal, Cummings pounded her way behind center for the touchdown and after an extra-point conversion was good, the score was even at 14 points apiece.

During their next offensive series, the Temptation offense used their go-to play of the night to gain big chunks of yardage. With an empty-backfield shotgun formation, LA motions one of the ends, usually Ruller or Bourseau and run an end-around which Vegas seemed to have no answer for Saturday night. On the drive, Ruller and Bourseau both gained 11 yards on that play. On a 3rd and 1 from the four yard-line, Angel used her legs to take a 20-14 lead on the Sin with 1:21 remaining in the third. LA failed to convert on the extra-point attempt.

The Vegas offense was quickly faced with a 4th and 6 on the first play of the fourth quarter, when Cummings connected with Cynthia Schmidt for the third time of the night, this time for a 21 yard gain to the LA 10 yard-line. However after a short gain on first and goal, Cummings threw three consecutive incomplete passes resulting in another turnover-on-downs in the red-zone. A dropped pass by Schmidt in the end-zone on second down would have evened the score and potentially given Vegas their second lead of the game with a converted extra-point. Though Cummings does not compare to KK Matheny of the Seattle Mist in regards to accuracy, the big stops in the red-zone defensively by LA will certainly give the Temptation defense confidence as they prepare for their playoff game against Seattle.

With 7:09 remaining in the game, LA looked to drive down the field making it a two-score game and take time off the clock to make it a difficult task for Vegas to mount a comeback. The Temptation offense did in-fact capitalize on a scoring drive, but in just two pass plays where Angel connected with Awagah twice, the second being a 29 yard touchdown pass with 5:35 remaining. A converted two-point extra-point attempt gave LA a 28-14 lead over Vegas.

Vegas was set to mount another scoring drive to come within one score, but after having a first and goal from the seven yard-line, Cummings completed her first pass to Henderson for no-gain, had to spike the ball on second down to stop the clock and then threw two consecutive incomplete passes on third and fourth down, as their chances at a comeback were put to an end with 1:09 remaining as LA took over in a victory formation to take the remaining time off the clock.

Michelle Angel won her first game at starting quarterback and led her LA team to the playoffs. On the night Angel completed 4 of 8 passes with two touchdowns and one rushing touchdown.

On the night, Sindy Cummings only completed 5 of her 16 passes that went for 59 total yards. She was able to her get star receiver, Cynthia Schmidt involved in the game with three big receptions that totaled 58 yards, after she had not been a factor receiving the ball for the Sin in their first two games of the year.

The Los Angeles Temptation are now in the playoffs for the sixth season in a row. A championship franchise that won the first three Legends Cups are still the most winningest team in LFL history and without a Chicago Bliss title this season, they will remain among the top. During a post-game interview LA’s co-head coach David Bizub was confident about LA’s chances in the playoffs and said that the reason he came back this season was to put the fourth Championship banner up for LA, something that the Temptation are two games away from accomplishing.

The West now stands at Seattle 3-1, Los Angeles 3-2-1, and Las Vegas 0-3-1. On August 8th Las Vegas travels to Seattle to play the Mist at the ShoWare Center in Kent, Washington. Then four days later, the two teams will square up again when Seattle travels to Ontario, California to play their final regular season game against the Sin. The Los Angeles Temptation now have three weeks to prepare for the Western Conference playoff game against Seattle, that takes place in Chicago, Illinois on August 15th.

– Text by Colton Cull, originally posted on LFL360.com

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