The Atlanta Steam (1-1) bounced back from a three-point loss at home against the two-time defending LFL champion Chicago Bliss (1-0) in Week 1 of the LFLUS 2015 schedule by going on the road and battering the Omaha Heart (0-1) in history making style, 79-0. The victory margin is a new record for the league. With only three returning players, Omaha was clearly over-matched against an Atlanta team that is better than the one that one that won the conference title last season. Had this been a boxing match, it would have been stopped at halftime.
The Heart deserve credit for their effort, but the talent and experience level of the team is far below that of the Bliss and Steam, meaning the Heart will be little more than full speed scrimmages in full uniform when Atlanta and Chicago play them.
The head-to-head series between Atlanta and Chicago, which the Bliss lead 1-0, will determine the conference outcome. Last Saturday’s performance against Omaha confirmed that Atlanta is one of the best teams in the LFL, but did little to answer this question: Are the Steam good enough to beat Chicago twice in the Windy City?
As one would guess with a score of 79-0, many Atlanta ball-handlers had strong offensive performances. Quarterback Dakota Hughes, running backs Nas Johnson and Jessie Locklear, and receiver Lauran Ziegler all had big nights.
Ziegler also had a monster night on the other side of the ball as part of an Atlanta defense that not only kept Omaha off the scoreboard, but rarely allowed positive yardage as two-thirds of the Heart’s offense plays resulted in losses. The Atlanta defense also accounted for eight points, two on a safety and six on an interception by Leanne Hardin that she took to the house. Keyon Harrison recovered a fumble and Ziegler recovering her own onside kick for a couple other Omaha turnovers.
During a post-game chat, Dakota spent much of the time talking about the Atlanta offensive line, a line that pushed the Omaha D-line up and down the field all night.
“Our blocking was incredible; the O-line did an amazing job.” The 2014 LFL Rookie of the Year went on to say that the “Defense shut Omaha down completely. Everyone executed and put everything on the line to get this win.”
In 7-on-7 ball, tight ends play a critical role in both passing and run blocking schemes and must be able to do both well to stay on the field. With two All-Stars like Coco Montgomery and Adrian Purnell anchoring the position, the Steam has some of the best. The addition of center/ LB Dina Wojowski, another of the former Jacksonville veterans, has cemented the O-line.
Game stats (unofficial):
Dakota Hughes was 8-for-12 passing for 57 yards and three TDs, 36 yards rushing on three attempts (12.0 YPC) with one TD. 93 Total Yards with four TDs. She also scored an extra point.
Nas Johnson totaled 51 yards rushing on six attempts (8.5 YPC) with four TDs. The three-year Steammate also converted on four extra-point attempts for a 28 point game.
Jessie Locklear had 43 yards rushing on five attempts (8.3 YPC) with a pair of TDs. The LFL rookie converted seven extra-point attempts, giving her 19 points for the night.
Lauran Ziegler contributed 59 total yards (43 receiving on six receptions, 16 rushing on four attempts) with four TDs (three receiving, one rushing).
Jodie Nettles made two catches for 14 yards.
Leanne Hardin led the defense with 8.5 total tackles (7S, 3A) including two for losses. She also had a Pass Broken Up in addition to the interception.
Second-year head coach Dane Robinson was happy with the way the team bounced back from the loss to Chicago, as well as the way the players held up playing back-to-back games to open the season.
“We held up pretty well but you can tell playing back to back games has their bodies playing “catch up” a little bit with the bumps and bruises. They are still putting themselves out there every play, which is what you love to see as a coach.”
Steam Players of the Game (Selected by Coach Dane Robinson)
Offensive Player of the Game: Lauran Ziegler
Defensive Player of the Game: Leanne Hardin
Relentless Player of the Game: Dina Wojowski
Atlanta will play Eastern Conference rival Omaha on Saturday, May 2 at The Arena.
Atlanta Steam 2015 Schedule
WK 1: Saturday, April 11 vs. Chicago (L, 27-24)
WK 2: Saturday, April 18 @ Omaha (W, 86-0)
WK 4: Saturday, May 2 vs. Omaha
WK 5: Sunday, May 10 @ Chicago
WK 14: Friday, July 10 vs. Omaha
WK 20: Saturday, August 15 @ Chicago
The Steam play home games at the 11,355-seat Arena at Gwinnett Center, located just off I-85 on Sugarloaf Parkway in Duluth.
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