Lingerie Football League Canada's inaugural season ended with the B.C. Angels making snow angels in confetti on the artificial turf at the Abbotsford Entertainment and Sports Centre as "We are the Champions" blared.
With a small-but-enthusiastic crowd looking on, the host Angels upset the league-leading Saskatoon Sirens 25-12 in the Lingerie Bowl on Saturday evening.
The Sirens dominated the first half and appeared poised to take a 6-0 lead into the break, courtesy of a 22-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Anne Erler to Tamar Fennell.
But on the last play of the second quarter, Angels receiver Aleesa Garcia came up with a momentum-shifting play, out-leaping a Saskatoon defender in the end zone to snag a pass from quarterback Mary Anne Hanson. The 20-yard hook-up knotted the score 6-6.
Early in the third quarter, Garcia gave the Abbotsford squad a 12-6 lead, lining up at QB in a wildcat formation and rushing for a 12-yard score.
Hanson's three-yard TD pass to Christine Moore gave the Angels an 18-6 advantage in the fourth quarter, but the Sirens responded with a 35-yard bomb from Erler to Heather Furr to make things interesting with just over three minutes left.
But the Angels marched down the field, with running back Stephanie Manou chewing up yardage, and Hanson capped the drive with a six-yard TD run.
Hanson and Garcia were honoured as game MVPs, and afterward, Angels head coach Kevin Snell pointed to their touchdown connection at the end of the second quarter as the turning point.
"It was unreal," he said. "The coverage was there, but Mary Anne threw a perfect ball, and Aleesa jumped for it. Aleesa's been clutch for us all year. Her hands, you can't teach that. It's like she's played football for a long time."
MORTAZA PLEASED WITH FIRST SEASON
LFL Canada is planning to expand to two more cities next season, and league founder/chairman Mitchell Mortaza said he expects to announce a national TV broadcast partner in the coming weeks.
"I couldn't have expected of scripted it better than it went," he said, reflecting on Canada's first Lingerie Bowl. "This team (the Angels) has gone through so much adversity all year, so many ups and downs, no one really gave them a chance in this one. Somehow they fought through it."
Despite criticism of the league's undergarments-centric marketing gimmick, Mortaza believes the LFL's first season in Canada was a solid debut.
"The people that came out saw it was a real sport – that it wasn't hokey, it wasn't just sex appeal, that we really care about playing a good game of football," he said. "We tell our athletes and coaches, 'Give it time. Everything shifts, and you're going to become mainstream up here in Canada.'
"It's very tough the first year, because there's no awareness, there's no television. This is just how it played out in the U.S. – we started out with these types of crowds. And as the word got out, now we're hosting sellout crowds, we've got a national television contract . . . we're the fastest-growing sports league in the U.S."
As for the league's future in Abbotsford, Mortaza said that's yet to be determined.
"At the end of the year, we'll look at everything . . . figure out what worked, what didn't work, what are the best buildings, etc.," he said. "It's something we want to revisit, but it's an incredibly classy group that runs this building (the AESC), from (general manager) Jason Blumenfeld on down. We'd be very fortunate if we came back here."