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N.O. Blaze Bash Barracudas

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Wondering what sounded like a thousand trains slamming together and disrupting the calm of your Saturday night?  Did you look westward into the fading sun wondering just what you were missing?  That echoing cacophony was the sound of hundreds of heels stomping and threatening to bring down the stands at Muss Bertolino Stadium in Kenner as the New Orleans Blaze women’s football team claimed their home opener with a 30-0 shutout over the Emerald Coast Barracudas. 

The filleting came two weeks after the Blaze’s heart-wrenching season opener loss to the Dallas Rage in OT by one point.  Damn the two-point conversion!  Saturday night, the Blaze wanted redemption, and at the toss of the coin, the Blaze’s fate was sealed.  Winning the toss and opting to receive, it was all black and red till the final whistle blew.  Here’s how it all went down.

First Quarter: Conner Fugler was the first to get her hands on the ball, but after that, the opening series was all about QB Chris Zboril hooking up with and handing off to RB Danielle “D Balla” Coleman.  Apparently, “Coleman” is synonymous for “run,” ‘cause that’s all she did.  She got the Blaze in position to score at 9:26 in the first with a WR Lynette Kokemor touchdown long before the Barracudas ever even thought about touching the ball.  With the extra point, the Blaze were up 7-0.

The Barracuda’s first possession was short lived: a quick, heart-stopping gain followed by a loss and then a fumble recovered by the Blaze.  The rest of the quarter was all Coleman again: Think the lead dude in Apocalypto.  Think Barbaro.  Nothing but run. And how does she keep going and going and going, play after play?  Coleman says when she’s tired, she just thinks about how it felt not to play last year (thanks, Katrina), and that keeps her legs moving.

Second Quarter: Less than a minute in, FB Paula Mischler scored on a one-yard run, and with the extra point the Blaze were quickly up 14-0.  On the Barracuda possession, the Blaze defense stepped up big and schooled those fish in the art of loss of yardage.  DL Nicole Thibodeaux got the sack, and soon the Blaze had the ball on the fifty.  And who should show up again?  Coleman.  A field goal put the Blaze up 17-0 with 5:33 remaining in the half.

While the Barracuda’s QB got nailed and her pass was almost picked off by Blaze linebacker E.J. Davenport, props must go out to the Emerald Coast’s Patrice Miller.  She was omnipotent, playing both sides of the field due to the Barracuda’s 16-man roster.  She could run, run, run, and she could hit, hit, hit.  If a silver jersey was moving the ball or wrapping up a Blaze black and red, it was Miller.  But on this possession, before the QB was sacked again and the fish turned the ball over on downs, Davenport took Miller down huge with a big spinning roll, the kind that makes your ribs ache just watching it happen.  Ni-ice!!!

The rest of the half was all about the Blaze’s WR Jen Ludwicki who summoned up some mad skillz to pull in an one-armed grab with a fish riding her hip.  Then she hooked up with Zboril on a huge, 25-yard pass, and then just missed another one.  At half time the score remained 17-0.

Third Quarter: Even though they fought hard in true game fish fashion, things continued to go downhill quickly for the Barracudas.  A fumble on the opening play resulted in the QB going down hard and not getting right back up or coming back into the game.  At some point during the Blaze’s next possession, DL Amanda “Phish” Fisher yelled up at the home crowd, “I broke her, ya’ll like that?”  They did.  Thunderous foot stomping. The quarter ended with the score still 17-0.

Fourth Quarter:  While much of the game was all about QB Zboril and Coleman, Kokemor owned the last fifteen minutes.  She started off with a big, sacrifice-the-body diving catch good for a first down, and soon followed up with a hella good 18-yard reception in the end zone.  The WR chalks up previous play at QB as a big help, enabling her to read where the defense is so that when the ball comes “everything else disappears” except her and the ball, and she knows that “This is mine.”  Again the extra point, props to rookie kicker Marika Barto, and the Blaze were up 24-0.

The Barracudas just barely got their hands on the ball before they fumbled, again, and the ball was recovered once more by the Blaze.  Zboril spent the remainder of the quarter working on her passing skills, hooking up with Ludwicki, Kokemor and Athena Monteleone – Zeus would be proud.  On a QB sneak, Zboril owned the last touchdown of the game.  Despite a bobbled hold that denied the Blaze the extra point, the final score was a resounding 30-0.

After the game the Blaze were all smiles as they greeted fans and hugged family and friends, glad to get that big win at home, glad to redeem themselves after the loss at Dallas.  As Coleman put it, the Rage “put a pounding on us [two weeks ago] and hurt us to our heart, so we had to put the hurt on somebody.”  Intense QB Zboril summed the win up in one word: “Awesome.”  Finally, co-owner and player Lisa “LL” Lunsford took the win in stride: “We try not to kill them.  We did well taking time off the board and scoring, but we can play better than that.”  Clearly, she’s all about putting a quality product on the field and filling the stands, saying football’s not about running up the score, even though it’s “exciting for the players.”  And for the home crowd too, LL. 

So, if you want to see real, live, hard-hitting, and in the words of the Blaze owners, “Git ‘R Done” football, you need to be in the stands this Saturday night, May 5th, when the Blaze go toe-to-toe with the Pensacola Power (2-0).  The game starts at 7pm at Buddy Lawson Stadium: 1824 Short St., Kenner.  See you in the stands.

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