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Sunday, July 6, 2014

D.C. Divas Come Up Short in Record Playoff Shootout, 72-56


Neal Rozendaal
Boston, MA – Recent games between the D.C. Divas and the Boston Militia have shattered offensive records in women’s football. The Divas only wish they could wind up on the right side of history once in a while.
One year after the Divas lost to Boston in the highest scoring game in women’s football history (81-54), the Boston Militia eliminated the Divas from the 2014 WFA playoffs Saturday in the highest scoring postseason game in the history of the sport, 72-56.
The 128 combined points set a record for the most points scored by two women’s football teams in a single playoff game. It broke the previous record of 116, set last weekend in a smaller league when the Houston Energy topped the Phoenix Phantomz, 90-26.
This game was slightly more competitive than that one.
The Boston Militia (9-0) received the opening kickoff and immediately flexed their offensive muscles, with running back Stacey Tiamfook racing for a long touchdown and a 7-0 lead less than a minute into the game. The D.C. Divas (5-4) responded just 72 seconds later. Allyson Hamlin fired a 62-yard touchdown pass to Kentrina Wilson, and the game was knotted at seven. Two touchdowns after barely two minutes had passed foreshadowed a record-shattering scoring spree.
Boston running back Whitney Zelee first made her presence felt on the Militia’s next drive, battling into the end zone on third and goal to give Boston a lead they’d never relinquish, 14-7. Although the defenses were overshadowed in this contest, defensive and special teams plays dominated the rest of the first quarter.
The Divas successfully executed a fake punt when D’Ajah Scott raced for a first down out of punt formation. Later in the quarter, the Divas came up with their first defensive stop of the game, forcing the Militia to punt the ball back to them. However, the D.C. offense struggled to find its groove, coming up empty on three straight offensive possessions.
Early in the second quarter, Emily Grossman got off a nice punt under a heavy Boston rush, and the ball settled at the Militia 27-yard line. Boston quarterback Alison Cahill got loose down the sidelines on a spectacular 73-yard run to put Boston ahead by two touchdowns. Cahill capped her athletic play by drawing a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for taunting as she crossed the goal line. But the penalty yardage didn’t affect the extra point attempt, and Boston took a seemingly commanding 21-7 lead.
With the offense struggling a bit, D’Ajah Scott decided to take matters into her own hands. Scott, who returned two kickoffs for touchdowns in the Divas’ previous game in Boston, completed a hat trick this season against the Militia by returning the ensuing kickoff for a score. Scott’s electrifying run put the Divas right back in the game, 21-14.
The Divas’ defense then stepped up again. Lindsay Sollers picked off a Militia pass and gave the Divas the opportunity to potentially tie the game. However, the Divas’ offense stalled for the fourth straight time, leading to another D.C. punt.
Zelee got her second short touchdown run of the game, plowing in from a yard out to put Boston ahead, 28-14. The Divas’ offense snapped to life in the nick of time, and Grigsby countered with a short two-yard scoring run of her own to cut the deficit to seven, 28-21.
With just over two minutes remaining in the first half, the Militia faced a fourth and seven deep in D.C. territory. The Militia were able to run for a first down, and on the very next play, Cahill hit Adrienne Smith for a score and a 35-21 advantage with 1:37 showing on the scoreboard clock.
After Smith’s touchdown, the officials “corrected” the scoreboard clock to 1:10. By the time the Divas fielded the ensuing kickoff, they were left with just 59 seconds remaining before halftime.
The Divas’ two-minute offense responded to the challenge. Ashley Whisonant made a couple of terrific catches, the last being a 29-yard reception from Hamlin in the end zone with just seven seconds left before halftime. Although the Divas missed the extra point, D.C. had cut their deficit to one score at the half, 35-27.
The D.C. Divas took the second half kickoff and nearly pulled even as the third quarter began. Hamlin threw a 25-yard touchdown pass to Scott, and the extra point kick pulled the Divas within a single point, 35-34.
But Whitney Zelee and the Militia then scored three successive touchdowns to seize control of the game. First, Zelee raced seven yards to put the Militia back ahead by seven, 41-34. A well-executed onside kick gave Boston possession again, and Zelee scored two touchdowns in the span of less than a minute by ripping off a 45-yard dash to the end zone. That run gave the Militia a 48-34 lead.
The Divas’ offense again stalled and was forced to punt, and a snap above the punter’s head was recovered by the Militia at the D.C. 19-yard line. Zelee ran for her third touchdown of the quarter – and her fifth of the game – from seven yards away to give the Militia an insurmountable 55-34 advantage.
The Divas refused to fold, however. Grigsby raced for her second score of the contest, and Hamlin tossed to Whisonant for the two-point conversion to cut the deficit to 55-42 after three quarters.
On the first play of the fourth quarter, the Militia booted a 23-yard field goal to extend their lead to 58-42. The Divas were still within two scores, and the offense moved the ball down the field in an attempt to cut the margin to a single score. But a pitch from Hamlin to Grigsby went astray, and the Militia recovered the fumble at the Divas’ 14-yard line to end the threat.
Boston ended an 86-yard drive with Zelee rushing for her fourth straight Militia touchdown. Zelee’s sixth score of the game followed by her two-point conversion rush put the Divas behind, 66-42, with just over six minutes remaining.
Yet the offensive fireworks were far from over. Hamlin hit Whisonant for a fifty-yard touchdown strike to push the score to 66-48. After a recovered onside kick, Boston notched their tenth touchdown of the game with a long run to take a 72-48 lead.
Grigsby finished the scoring with a two-yard touchdown run capped by a two-point conversion with two minutes left in the game. That provided the final score in a wild, record-shattering, 72-56 contest that concluded when the Militia recovered an onside kick and ran out the clock.
The 56 points scored by the Divas were the most the Militia have ever surrendered in a single game, breaking the record of 54 the Divas scored against them in last season’s defeat. The Divas also became the first team to score 56 points in a losing effort in a playoff game, surpassing the 58-55 defeat suffered last season by the Kansas City Titans versus the St. Louis Slam.
The Militia’s previous season-high this year for points scored was 48. The Divas knew coming into this contest that 56 points would have been enough to defeat the Militia in any of their previous games this season.
But even that wasn’t enough on Saturday, and the Boston Militia secured the northeast championship for the fifth consecutive year.

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