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Sunday, June 22, 2014

D.C. Divas advance

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D.C. Divas Advance to Conference Semifinals with 69-8 Victory
Neal Rozendaal

Falls Church, VA – The D.C. Divas invaded Northern Virginia and celebrated their record-setting 11th playoff berth with one of the most commanding victories in franchise history.

The Divas exploded for ten touchdowns and opened their 2014 playoff journey with a 69-8 victory over the visiting Columbus Comets. It was the Divas’ most lopsided win since defeating the Northeastern Nitro in 2011 by a 77-0 score.

The D.C. Divas (5-3) seized control of the game early. Ashley Whisonant reeled in a 28-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Allyson Hamlin to give the Divas a 6-0 advantage less than two minutes into the game.

The Columbus Comets (5-5) drove deep into D.C. territory on their first offensive possession until a pass was deflected into the hands of Cherre Marshall, who returned the interception to midfield. Moments later, Kenyetta Grigsby ran 31 yards for a touchdown, and Callie Brownson passed to Kentrina Wilson for a two-point conversion and a 14-0 lead.

The Divas took an insurmountable lead late in the first quarter with two touchdowns in a thirty-second span. Whisonant eluded several defenders for her second touchdown reception of the game, a 58-yard scamper that gave the Divas a 21-0 margin. After a kickoff out of bounds, Columbus took over at their own 35-yard line. On the very next play, D.C. defensive back Lindsay Sollers intercepted a Columbus pass and returned it to the Comets’ ten-yard line.

Kenyetta Grigsby then immediately rushed the remaining ten yards for a Divas touchdown, her second of the game. The ball seemed to bounce the Divas’ way all game long, a fact made most evident on the extra point attempt following Grigsby’s second score. Kicker Molly Redmond found the ball in her hands after a botched kick attempt, but she sped to the edge of the field and ran the ball over the goal line for a two-point conversion and a 29-0 lead after one quarter.

The second quarter was more of the same for the D.C. Divas’ unstoppable offense. Wide receiver Kentrina Wilson, who leads the Women’s Football Alliance (WFA) with nine touchdown receptions on the season, added to that tally with a five-yard touchdown catch from Hamlin and put the Divas ahead, 36-0.

On the ensuing kickoff, defensive back Eleni Kotsis recovered the football to give possession right back to D.C. It didn’t take the offense long to cash in, as Kenyetta Grigsby soon rushed five yards for her third touchdown of the contest. Grigsby finished the game with six carries for 76 yards and three touchdowns, and her last score gave the Divas a 43-0 lead.

The potent D.C. offense added one more touchdown before halftime. With just 23 seconds left in the first half, Whisonant took a short pass, got loose down the sidelines, and sprinted 59 yards for a touchdown. Ashley Whisonant ended the game with 160 yards and three touchdowns on just four receptions. Her final touchdown handed the Divas a 49-0 halftime advantage.

The Columbus Comets came into the game ranked #12 in the WFA, but they were hampered all game long by the absences of several key players. Multiple Columbus players, including star back Shelley Gates, missed the game after being injured in the Comets’ regular season finale against the Chicago Force.

In spite of those injuries, Columbus battled gamely all evening, and they finally got on the scoreboard early in the second half with a long touchdown pass. A successful two-point conversion made the score 49-8 with just over two minutes gone in the third quarter.

Divas quarterback Allyson Hamlin had her best statistical game of the season, completing 12-22 passes for 254 yards and five touchdowns. Her final touchdown toss of the evening went to Kentrina Wilson and gave the Divas a 56-8 lead. Wilson, meanwhile, continued to stamp herself as a women’s football superstar with five receptions for 84 yards and two touchdowns.

The Divas’ offensive headliners retired to the bench midway through the third quarter, but the D.C. defense continued to play stellar football, forcing several turnovers. Denee Walker recovered a Columbus fumble, and Lindsay Sollers registered an interception and a fumble recovery.

But the defensive standout of the game was linebacker Alicia Hopkins, who led the team with eight tackles and a quarterback sack. In addition, Hopkins intercepted two Comets passes. Her second interception came with 14 minutes remaining in the game, and she returned that interception to the end zone for a Divas touchdown. Hopkins’ defensive score handed the Divas a 63-8 lead.

With four minutes left in the contest, D.C. scored their tenth and final touchdown of the game. Running back Okiima Pickett raced to the end zone for her first touchdown since suffering a severe leg injury against the Boston Militia in 2012. Pickett finished the game with 63 yards and one touchdown on 11 carries, and her lone score capped off the Divas’ 69-8 victory.

The D.C. Divas and Columbus Comets squared off at Falls Church High School, and the Divas celebrated their first ever appearance in Northern Virginia with the 12th playoff win in franchise history. The Divas’ 69-8 triumph was their most lopsided postseason win since 2003, when they defeated the Connecticut Crush, 76-0, for their first playoff victory.

By defeating the Comets, the Divas advance to the WFA conference semifinals against the top-ranked Boston Militia. On July 5, the Divas will travel to Boston, where they will face the Militia in the playoffs for the sixth consecutive season.

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