Fri, Jun 10, 2022
(Friday, June 10 - Kansas City, MO) All eyes were on the much-anticipated X League debut on Friday night, as the X League begun its mission of opening up America’s No.1 sport to an entire gender. The two teams tasked with the responsibility of delivering an incredible opening-game, did so. The Atlanta Empire were stepping into the role of showcasing the X League game to a future expansion market in Kansas City, while the Chicago Blitz were gauging whether or not they would be a Playoff-contending team in 2022.
You could feel the sense of anticipation minutes before kickoff as the national anthem was sung and the opening coin-toss was held. On the field-of-play, what most would have expected to being athletes on both sides having a serious case of nerves could not be further from the truth, Kansas City and Chicago shined from the opening snap.
Kansas City’s offense led by veteran QB1 Dakota Hughes wasted little time, only :72 seconds into the game Hughes connected with Jolie Efezokhae and with a Jessica Salazar two-point conversion the hometown Force took an early 8-0 lead. Only one minute later, Chicago would answer with their own veteran tackle football star, Javell Thompson ripping off a 35yd run to bring Chicago to within 2pts, 8-6.
What was projected to being a defensive battle, especially with Chicago’s potential of a No.1 ranked defense, did not prove to be case as the 2nd Quarter opened up. The ball went back to Chicago’s RB1 Thompson who scored again, this time with another impressive 26yd run. Thompson's speed and quickness was called into question coming into the season, however, Thompson proved any doubters wrong, giving the visiting Blitz a 14-8 lead.
The back and forth battle continued as Hughes and Efezokhae connected once again, this time for a 22yd touchdown and with the 2pt conversion, the game was tied for the first time at 14-14. Prior to the end of the half Chicago’s Raymond led her offense down the field targeting WR Tamika Robinson as the two connected on a 19yd touchdown pass to give Chicago a 21-14 halftime lead.
At halftime both locker rooms were heated, this opening-game had the urgency and intensity of a championship game.
Chicago’s offense was questioned under Raymond but it would once again assert itself at the beginning of the 3rd Quarter, as Raymond found Tamika Robinson, this time for a 30yd touchdown connection and with the extra point, Chicago took its first and only commanding lead of the game at 28-14. With their backs against the wall and facing a potential No.1 defense in Chicago, Jessica Salazar of KC took over the game. Salazar capped a 3rd Quarter drive in which she was featured in the run-game by scoring on a 4yd touchdown run to bring the game to within a one-score battle at 20-28.
That is how the 3rd Quarter would end, as a one-score game while setting the stage for one of the greatest 4th Quarters and finishes anyone could have expected.
The 4th Quarter opened with Hughes finding Efezokhae for their 3rd TD connection of the night with a 16yd score, Lauran Ziegler would tie the game with her 2pt conversion at 28-28. Kansas City’s offense was incredibly impressive when you consider the defense it was lining up against, however, Kansas City’s front line which was projected to be the most physical in the league, lived up to its headlines and certainly Salazar helped the cause with her physical run-style attack.
2 minutes after Kansas City’s score, Chicago would respond with QB1 Raymond showing off her arm and wheels, with a Quarterback-keeper and touchdown to put Chicago up 34-28. Now a 6 point game, the pressure was once again on the shoulders of Hughes and the Kansas City offense. With 3:05 seconds remaining in the game, Hughes connected with Ziegler on a 15yd touchdown, however, Center Kayla Weller dropped what would have been a go-ahead 2pt conversion which kept the game tied at 34-34. Weller’s drop could have potentially sealed the game for Kansas City as its defense would hold strong against a Chicago offense which racked up over 325 yards on the night but was shut-out the final 3 minutes of play, forcing overtime.
Chicago won the overtime coin-toss and never looked back, Raymond playing with a chip on her shoulder led by strong front line play, marched the Blitz down the field and capped the game with a 4 yard Quarterback keeper, sealing the historic opening-game win for Chicago.
Over the course of the next 5-10-20 years there will be many games played in the X League, however, this opening night match-up will always be looked back upon as an instant classic. Names like Raymond, Thompson, Efezhokae, Hughes, and other will be talked about as heroic performances set against a game that was more than a game.
Give credit to the coaching staffs as well, led by Dane Robinson and Sidney Lewis who prepared the athletes and kept them focused through a two-year COVID delay for the opportunity to eventually line-up. When their number was called, each and every athlete on both sides put it all on the line.
In sports we sometimes witness a game whereas it feels unfair for either team to be looked at as the loser, on this night while Chicago improved to 1-0 and Kansas City dropped to 0-1, there were no losers on the field.
Chicago next lines up on August 6th at home in a pivotal match-up vs Seattle Thunder at BMO Harris Bank Center in Rockford, IL. The Kansas City Force will travel to the ‘Valley of the Sun’ on July 15 at Bell Bank Park to face the Arizona Red Devils.
|Passing Yards (Net)||108||105|
|Total Offense Plays-Yards||46-325||37-202|