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Sunday, June 8, 2014

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Boston Militia Survive Furious Divas Rally to Win, 29-28
Neal Rozendaal

Landover, MD – Ultimately, it proved to be too big of a hole to overcome.

The D.C. Divas fell behind in the first half, 21-0, and despite 28 unanswered points that gave the Divas a late lead, the Boston Militia scored the game-winning touchdown with three minutes remaining to triumph by the narrowest of margins, 29-28.

The D.C. Divas (4-3) had a chance to get on the scoreboard first midway through the first quarter, but a bad snap on a field goal attempt kept the game scoreless. The Boston Militia (7-0) then went on to dominate most of the first half, sprinting out to a 21-0 lead. In the absence of their star running back Whitney Zelee, Boston relied largely on an open passing attack to notch the first three touchdowns of the game.

The Divas’ offense finally got on track late in the first half. Kenyetta Grigsby scored the Divas’ first points of the game on a seven-yard run with 4:33 left in the first half. Grigsby had another masterful performance against an elite opponent, rushing for 248 yards and a touchdown on 26 carries. Her lone touchdown cut the Divas’ deficit to 21-6 at halftime.

On the Divas’ first possession of the second half, they faced fourth and 18 when Grigsby came up inches short of a first down on a surprise run. When the Divas got the ball back, Grigsby ripped off a 45-yard run to set up Allyson Hamlin’s first touchdown pass of the game. Hamlin’s 20-yard scoring toss went to coach-turned-quarterback-turned-wide-receiver Nikki Williams. Grigsby ran for the two-point conversion, and the Divas trailed Boston after three quarters, 21-14.

Led by Trigger McNair and Alicia Hopkins – who each paced the team with six tackles – the D.C. defense played excellently for most of the second half. Early in the fourth quarter, they stopped Boston for a three-yard gain on fourth and four, and the Divas took possession at their own six-yard line.

The Divas offense then drove 94 yards to tie the game, with Ashley Whisonant carrying the ball 31 yards to the end zone. After a successful extra point kick, the game was tied, 21-21, with 11:40 remaining in the contest.

Tasha Lemke kept the Divas’ momentum going, forcing a fumble on the ensuing kickoff that Emily Grossman recovered. Whisonant scored the Divas’ fourth straight unanswered touchdown, making a tough catch in the end zone for a 14-yard score. The Divas took their first lead of the game, 28-21, with 8:09 left. Whisonant finished the game with 56 yards receiving and a receiving touchdown to go along with her 31-yard touchdown run.

On the Militia’s next possession, Callie Brownson intercepted a Boston pass at midfield, giving the Divas the ball and a seven-point lead with under seven minutes remaining in the game. But the Divas then committed a rare miscue, fumbling the ball a minute later.

Given another opportunity, the Militia put together the offensive drive they needed. Stacey Tiamfook rushed for a one-yard touchdown, and Asia Landrum rushed for the two-point conversion to swing the score back in favor of Boston, 29-28.

With three minutes remaining in the game, the Divas had time for one final drive. The Divas advanced to the Boston 27-yard line, where they faced fourth and one with under a minute to play. But the Divas were stopped for no gain on a running attempt, and the Militia escaped with their closest victory in team history.

The Militia now have a record of 50-1 over their last 51 regular season contests. Only two of those 50 victories have been by less than a touchdown, and both were their 2014 victories over the Divas. It was a heartbreaking loss for the Divas, who were agonizingly close to finally getting a win over their chief rivals. Instead, as a result of the loss, the Divas will have to travel to Boston should they encounter the Militia in the playoffs.

All season long, the Divas have dedicated their 2014 season to the memory of their late coach, Ezra Cooper, one of the sport’s greatest advocates who passed away this offseason. After the game, the Militia players and coaches huddled on their side of the field and mocked Cooper’s signature team cheer, chanting, “Whose house? Our house!” at the Divas’ players in celebration of their hard-fought road victory. It was the slimmest of victories, but it was enough for Boston to keep the upper hand in this rivalry.

After a bye week, the D.C. Divas will next return to action on June 21 for their playoff opener. The Divas will play a conference quarterfinal game at home against an opponent still to be determined.

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