The final regular season game of the 2015 schedule featured the top ranked team this season taking on the worst team in Legends Football League history. The Chicago Bliss remained the only undefeated team this season, and in fact haven’t lost a game since April 19th of the 2013 season when they lost to the LA Temptation by a score of 31-19. Since that loss Chicago has gone on to win two straight Legends Cup Championships and the Bliss are working toward their third in a row this year.
Chicago came into Saturday’s game against Omaha confident enough to rest several of the players they’ll lean on for an upcoming playoff run, including star running back ChrisDell ‘Ferrari’ Harris. The Bliss weren’t looking past their opponents, but Head Coach Keith Hac’s vast experience served him well in resting key players during this match-up.
For the Omaha Heart, resting simply wasn’t an option. They’ve been battered this season as their offense has failed to deliver and their defense has looked horrific. From arm-tackling to an inability to take snaps from center, the Heart have finished many of their games this season looking like a wounded lion backing into a corner. For them, nothing remained but pride and they weren’t going to go down without a fight.
Prior to the game, Warren Buffett was in attendance and gave the Heart a pregame speech to help bolster their spirits. It seemed to work as the Heart were tough from the beginning, hitting harder and appearing to be much more confident than in previous weeks. For a change, Omaha showed heart. They sincerely wanted to win this game and it showed.
Leading up to the game, some people questioned if quarterback Heather Furr would even play as Chicago had already clinched a playoff birth. Bliss fans were treated to their franchise quarterback under center, though her passing was wild and lacked the proper touch, especially on deep passing patterns. Still, Furr brought her usual game-changing impact as the unusual pass-heavy Bliss offense proved lethal to Omaha’s hope of victory.
Omaha’s confidence showed right away as they stopped Chicago’s opening kick return on Chicago’s 20 yard line with a perfectly executed open field tackle, which is something the Heart have struggled with this season. Furr lined her troops up and immediately went to work, passing the football as if to prove critics wrong. As has been the story all season, Furr began connecting on short routes and screen passes to Javel Thompson, who started at running back as the Bliss opted to rest the ‘Ferrari’. After a number of short yardage passes to Thompson, Alli Alberts, and Charbria Survillion, Chicago finally found the end zone as Furr executed a bull rush keeper up the middle. Furr would miss her target on the extra point attempt, which gave the Bliss an early 6-0 lead.
While Omaha’s game-plan was obviously a run-heavy mindset, it seemed to work early. They drove down the field against a Chicago run defense which seemed to have no answers for the strong runs up the middle. As has been the case for most of the season, Omaha looked strong on offense as they moved the ball well, squandering an opportunity to put points on the board once in the red zone. The 1st quarter would come to a close with Chicago leading by a score of 6 to 0.
The 2nd quarter proved to be more of the same as the Omaha Heart continued to grind with a running attack, hoping to stall Chicago’s offense with an energized defensive front. Likewise, the Bliss once again found themselves unable to move the ball with long passes, though quarterback Heather Furr scored just under one minute into the 2nd quarter on yet another keeper play. Another missed extra-point attempt left the score at 12-0 with 9:03 still remaining in the 2nd quarter.
Several times, the Bliss found themselves turning the football over on downs. That is something they absolutely will not be able to do against the Atlanta Steam in their upcoming playoff game if they hope to win. For Omaha, forcing turnovers on downs looks promising for a team that’s young and searching for an identity. If nothing else, they have a passion for the game and under the right direction, passion can be turned into winning. While the Omaha Heart often lined up with in a wishbone formation, their game-plan was obviously to run into the teeth of Chicago’s defense as they displayed designed runs by quarterback Kayleen Colson. Offensively speaking, it was a slow 2nd quarter for both teams as prideful hitting became the story as Omaha tried to keep things from getting out of hand. The Chicago Bliss would go into halftime leading the ballgame by a score of 12-0.
Omaha fans were red and rowdy to begin the 3rd quarter, which was a direct effect of the effort their team had displayed in the first-half. The Heart were within two scores and were receiving the football, meaning they were still within striking distance. They went back to the running game early, trying to get their play-maker, Heather Hudson, involved. For the first time all season, Omaha appeared to be focused and the defense was playing with a high level of play.
The Omaha coaching staff had done a much better job of preparing for this contest, and it showed. The offense wasn’t pretty but the usual quarterback/center exchange that resulted in many fumbles and turnovers was not an issue on Saturday. But credit the Chicago Bliss, who seemed to come alive on defense as they began clawing their way into the backfield and stuffing the running game. Finding themselves pinned back with a rushing attack that had stalled, Omaha began to throw the football. In doing so, they found themselves in a deeper hole as quarterback Kayleen Colson threw an interception with still eight minutes to play in the 3rd-quarter. It felt like an emotionally back-breaking play for the Heart, which began to show on the player’s faces. Their crowd continued to stand behind them, though, and a few of the defensive players for the Heart did what they could to motivate those around them.
On Chicago’s ensuing drive, Heather Furr connected with Stephan Murray for a touchdown pass from 5-yards out, and it seemed to sap Omaha’s confidence. They looked defeated and for good reason. The Chicago Bliss would add to their lead with another touchdown during the 3rd quarter, leading things by a score of 26-0 when it came to an end.
The Chicago Bliss stood tall on the sidelines, though the rowdy Omaha crowd would begin directing their frustration right at the Chicago bench. In fact, the crowd offered up more emotion in the 4th quarter than the Heart players, who were beaten on all fronts and had been so during the course of an entire season.
With no quarterback on the roster capable of throwing the ball deep, they had came into this contest with a run-minded playbook. Not exactly what they’d need in order to mount the serious comeback they’d need in order to somehow post their first victory of the season. Even the Heart’s top talent, Heather Hudson, began making mistakes in the 4th-quarter as she laid the ball on the turf. With a quarterback who finished 1-of-3 passing with 7 yards and an interception throughout the ballgame, the Omaha Heart had absolutely no chance of beating Chicago in this one.
Omaha finally showed up and played with heart, but it wouldn’t be enough to be the first team to beat the Chicago Bliss this season. Bliss quarterback Heather Furr finished the night 17-of-35 passing for 104 yards with 2 touchdowns and no interceptions. Furr’s completions averaged 6.1 yards per play and her longest completion went for just 11-yards. Furr failed to connect with her receivers on all of her passes deeper than ten yards down field. For the upcoming Eastern Conference Championship, that’s something to be worried about as she’ll be under a lot more pressure from a much better Atlanta defense.
For Omaha, Kayleen Colson was at quarterback and did well with the center exchange, which is an issue that has plagued the Heart all season long. She also managed to hand the ball off without issue but rarely threw the ball. When she did, Colson’s tosses weren’t impressive enough to win over a starting role with Omaha. The Heart ran a wishbone-style offense, which suited Colson’s abilities well during the game. Credit Dontae Allen for working with the talent he had and putting together a game plan to fit it, which showed effort on his part and a willingness to improve the franchise.
As the Bliss players prepared to leave Omaha following a solid 26-0 victory, their focus had already shifted to a key match-up in the playoffs against the rival Atlanta Steam. In a post-game interview, quarterback Heather Furr was confident and ready to prove critics wrong while saying she’d need to practice her throwing this week. For Chicago, they are the defending champions and that holds true meaning to every player, staff member and fan. Their next mission isn’t just against the Atlanta Steam. Their mission is to silence anyone who is waiting for this dynasty, perhaps one of the LFL’s all-time greatest – to implode. For Heather Furr and the Bliss, failure is simply not an option.
The Omaha Heart end the season, having lost every game and doing so in embarrassing fashion. They do deserve credit for fighting until the end, especially against a tough Chicago opponent. Still, their coaching staff will be replaced and their starting quarterback (Anonka Dixon) may just be right behind the coaches. Even the worst statistical team in LFL history can rebound next season, though, as they have the support of a fantastic Omaha fan-base. There are certainly pieces on the Heart roster that can be built around and at times, they have shown flashes of competitiveness. Rome wasn’t built in a day, but it did have architects with the proper vision. Omaha’s off-season will be important as they begin searching for one such architect and a quarterback to lead a new-look Heart into battle next season.
Following the game, Omaha’s coach Dontae Allen admitted that he believes he’s coached his last game for the Heart. With the official release of coach Allen and his staff coming this morning, Omaha is now set to begin interviewing for the new coaching positions.
The Eastern Conference regular season is final and stands Chicago 5-0, Atlanta 3-2, and Omaha 0-6. Chicago will turn around and face their rival in the East, the Atlanta Steam this Saturday, August 22nd at home in front of their cheering fans. Toyota Park in Bridgeview, Illinois will host the Western Conference Championship and Eastern Conference Championship with kickoffs at 5pm and 8pm respectively.
– Text by John M. Davis, originally posted on LFL360.com
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