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Sunday, June 14, 2015

D.C. Divas Clinch Home Field Advantage with 56-28 Victory over Rival Renegades

D.C. Divas Football
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Landover, MD – It was the perfect end to a perfect 2015 regular season for the D.C. Divas.
Allyson Hamlin threw five touchdown passes, including the 200th of her career, the defense forced three first-half turnovers, and the D.C. Divas doubled up the Boston Renegades with a resounding 56-28 victory. The win clinches home field advantage for the D.C. Divas throughout the National Conference playoffs and gives the Divas their first perfect 8-0 regular season since 2009.
The victory was cathartic for the Divas (8-0), who struggled for years against the Renegades’ predecessor, the Boston Militia. The Militia had never lost to the same opponent twice in one season, and in fact, after a 6-2 record in their first year in 2008, they never again suffered two defeats in the same year. But the Divas topped the Renegades for the second time on Saturday, and the second victory came in decisive fashion.
The D.C. Divas immediately gained control of the game by dominating the first ten minutes of play. The Renegades (3-2) received the opening kickoff but quickly went three and out. The Divas then took over and put together a 71-yard touchdown drive, finished off by a five-yard touchdown run by Kenyetta Grigsby. The Divas grabbed a 7-0 advantage three and a half minutes into the game.
Cherre Marshall stepped up for the Divas, picking off Boston quarterback Allison Cahill for the first turnover of the night. The Divas instantly took advantage of Boston’s mistake, with Divas quarterback Allyson Hamlin connecting with Ashley Whisonant for an explosive 79-yard touchdown pass. In the blink of an eye, the Divas seized a 14-0 lead.
Boston then suffered their second turnover of the evening, fumbling the ball away at their own 25-yard line with Helen Deer making the recovery for the Divas. That gave D.C. a short field to work with, and Allyson Hamlin capped off the quick drive with a one-yard quarterback sneak for the score. Eight and a half minutes into the contest, the Divas had taken a commanding 20-0 lead over the Renegades.
Boston’s offense soon warmed up, however. Facing fourth and five from the D.C. 13-yard line, the Divas were flagged for pass interference in the red zone on a pass the officials ruled as catchable, which gave the Renegades a first down. Three plays later, Stacey Tiamfook raced six yards to the end zone on third and goal with under a minute to go in the first quarter, and after one period, the Divas’ lead was sliced to 20-7.
The Divas’ offense responded with a 58-yard drive that culminated in a 36-yard touchdown pass from Hamlin to Whisonant. It was the 200th touchdown pass of Allyson Hamlin’s incredible, 13-year career, and it appropriately went to Whisonant, who has caught more of Hamlin’s scoring tosses than any other receiver. Hamlin’s 200th career touchdown pass restored the Divas’ twenty-point lead to 27-7.

Boston then turned to Brooklyn, New York, native Adrienne Smith to get back in the game. Smith caught two long passes on the ensuing drive for 57 yards, including a 37-yard scoring catch on third and 11. Smith’s only touchdown of the game pulled the Renegades back within two touchdowns at 27-14 midway through the second quarter.
The Divas came through with their fifth touchdown in five offensive possessions moments later, and again, it was Whisonant who snagged a 29-yard reception for a score. Whisonant scored three touchdowns – all in the first half – with 183 receiving yards on five catches. Her third touchdown grab of the evening put the Divas back on top, 34-14.
The Renegades continued their back-and-forth with the Divas, however, putting on a scoring show reminiscent of the high-scoring Divas-Militia games of years past. On their next drive, New Jersey resident Stacey Tiamfook rushed for 54 yards on six carries, including the key play by breaking free for a 24-yard gain on fourth and one. A short touchdown pass by Cahill with 2:13 left in the first half cut the Divas’ margin back down to 13 points, 34-21.
With just over two minutes to play before halftime, the Divas’ offense cranked into high gear and came through with another long touchdown drive, this one in lightning speed. The Divas traveled 61 yards in 61 seconds and scored with Grigsby scampering the final 13 yards to the end zone. Kenyetta Grigsby finished the game with 122 yards on 19 carries and two touchdowns. Grigsby’s second score of the contest gave the Divas a 40-21 lead with just over a minute to go in the half.
The Renegades tried to cram one last touchdown into the first half, but with time running down, they had to take risks in the passing game. Boston was driving until Lindsay Sollers came in on a blitz to sack Cahill for a nine-yard loss with seconds remaining in the half. On third and 19, Kamil Maclin made the huge play for the Divas, picking off Cahill at the goal line for the third turnover by the D.C. defense in the first half. Time expired in the first half with the Divas on top, 40-21.
The D.C. Divas came out of the halftime break with possession of the ball and looking to add to their 19-point lead. Grigsby broke off a long run toward the Boston end zone, but she was ruled out of bounds at the two-yard line. The Renegades’ defense then made their first stand of the game, pushing the Divas back to the 11-yard line in three plays. Undaunted, Divas kicker Stephanie Nealis calmly booted a 28-yard field goal to extend the Divas’ lead to 22 points, 43-21.
On their next drive, the Renegades’ offense kept their team within striking distance by converting their third fourth-down play of the game. Smith caught an 11-yard pass on fourth and ten from the D.C. 14-yard line, and Tiamfook immediately followed that with a three-yard score. Boston drew within 15 points, 43-28, with five minutes left in the third quarter.
Yet again, the Divas had a response, cracking the scoreboard for the seventh straight possession. On the first play of the fourth quarter, Kentrina Wilson caught a 13-yard strike from Hamlin for the touchdown. Wilson ended the game with 82 receiving yards and a touchdown on six catches. Her fourth-quarter score gave the Divas a 50-28 margin seconds into the final period.
The Divas and Renegades had been scoring back and forth since late in the first quarter, with neither team able to consistently stop the opposing offense. Trailing by three touchdowns, the Renegades resorted to a hurry-up offense in an attempt to score quickly. Facing fourth and three from the Divas’ 43-yard line, Smith caught a pass and appeared to race to the end zone for a quick Boston touchdown.
However, the Renegades were flagged for an illegal shift, which negated the score and would have brought up fourth and eight. Boston’s coaches charged onto the field in protest of the call, and Boston – which had already been given a sideline warning earlier in the game – was flagged 15 additional yards for unsportsmanlike conduct. Now facing fourth and 23, the Renegades had no choice but to punt for the first – and only – time in the contest.
The extraneous activity may have fired up the Renegades’ defense, because the Divas were compelled to kick the ball right back to Boston for D.C.’s only punt of the night. Boston took over with 9:21 left in the contest, trailing by three touchdowns, but the Divas’ defense slammed the door closed. After stopping a Tiamfook run for no gain, the Divas forced three incomplete passes to recover the ball on downs. Eleni Kotsis led the Divas with seven tackles, while Cherre Marshall, Alicia Hopkins, and Helen Deer each added five apiece.
The Divas’ offense took over with 8:17 remaining in the game and holding a 50-28 lead. They put their final stamp on the win over their archrivals with a dominating, time-consuming push down the field. The offense chewed up seven minutes and 26 seconds on a 15-play drive, capped by Hamlin’s seven-yard touchdown pass to Lillian Cherry with 51 seconds left in the game. Hamlin played an absolutely masterful game, completing 17 passes on 20 attempts for 331 yards and five touchdowns. Cherry’s touchdown grab gave the Divas the final margin of victory, 56-28.
It was a statement win for the D.C. Divas, who clinched their sixth undefeated regular season in team history but their first since 2009. The Divas are the only remaining undefeated team in the National Conference and solidly hold claim to the top seed in the conference. They will have the right to host the first three rounds of the upcoming Women’s Football Alliance (WFA) playoffs, including the National Conference championship game. With a perfect regular season under their belts, the Divas now embark on the all-important second season – the playoffs, which will begin for the Divas on June 27 against an opponent to be determined.

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