The first marquee match-up of the 2022 season will be played in Gwinnett, Georgia at Gas South Arena home to the No.4 ranked Atlanta Empire hosting the No.1 ranked Austin Sound.
Oddsmakers had given the early edge to the Austin Sound as a 2.5pt favorite, however, news broke on Tuesday of star safety Kris Daniels being out of the line-up due to an ankle injury. Daniels’ loss from the line-up makes the game a Pick’em.
The story of the game will be Atlanta’s ‘Young Gun’, 18yr old Canton, GA. native Bailey Hodgins will be making her first-ever women’s tackle football league start. Hodgins became a star in Flag Football, but will her game translate to the biggest stage in Women’s Football? If asked of Austin Sound head coach Mike Olvera, that question would be a resounding ’No’. Olvera said they will pull no punches in throwing everything at the young rookie on Saturday night, including a pass-rush that includes Austin’s stud middle-linebacker Whitney Palmer. Empire head coach Dane Robinson would be smart to counter by featuring Atlanta’s powerhouse running back Jessica Salazar to take the heat of Hodgins and the passing game. When the 18yr. old signal-caller does need to open it up, she will look for targets that include the 6’1 tight end Jolie Efezhokae who had a breakout game in the season-opener, proving to be a match-up nightmare. Offensively look for Lauran Ziegler of Atlanta to also be featured, an experienced receiver who runs crisp routes and often gets separation.
For Austin, the offense lacks a real threat in the run-game thus it will more than likely be an aerial show once again, led by the league’s leading passer Michelle Angel. Kris Daniels arguably the best two-way athlete in the X League being out of the line-up will limit Angel’s targets to simply Kassandra Bills. The 5’5 speedster Bills is the league’s most dangerous home-run threat. Austin’s offense will need someone to step up to provide more fireworks and options, look for Rachel Washington getting her first start at running back to potentially be that spark to kick-start the run game.
Defensively Austin will rely on its front three led by middle Whitney Palmer and young stallions at Defensive End with Merica Valdez and Zariah Green. In addition to the front three look for exotic blitz packages on Saturday night to put additional pressure on Atlanta’s untested Quarterback.
Injuries: Kris Daniels (Austin), Ankle, OUT
Betting Line: Pick’em
Score Prediction: Austin 35 Atlanta 30
Where: Gas South Arena (Gwinnett, GA)
Time: 7pmET Kickoff
Tickets: Click Here
Watch on FAN PASS: Click here