Having enjoyed a superlative season in 2013, Theresa Petruziello has established herself as one of the most valuable players on the Cleveland Crush. In a city that loves their sports, there is nothing more endearing to Cleveland fans than an athlete who plays with heart. Hailing from Collinwood, Ohio, she is a local sports hero that has done good.
She was nothing short of dominant during a 2013 season that saw Cleveland gain much needed confidence. During the Crush’s previous season (an 0-4 performance), Petruziello logged 150 yards receiving and six touchdowns, along with 13 solo tackles on defense. That strong momentum definitely continued into 2013.
Competing as a wide receiver and a strong safety, the 28 year-old Petruziello was a one-woman wrecking crew. An All-Fantasy Selection, her strong offensive game featured six touchdowns complemented by a brilliant defensive output, which resulted in 20 total tackles.
While there is no denying Tamar Fennell’s contribution to Cleveland’s season, Petruziello’s strong season and contagious charisma takes the burden of leadership off her shoulders. Averaging 14.7 yards per catch, she would emerge as one of the club’s primary weapons in the passing game.
Petruziello would finish as Cleveland’s receiving leader, leading the club in three categories: receptions (6), receiving yards (88) and receiving touchdowns (4). With Tia Knipper as a rookie competitor at the quarterback position, Petruziello’s presence was able to help her adjust to the game while giving her a steady receiving target. In Knipper’s LFL debut, a 49-40 road loss on May 18 vs. the Atlanta Steam, Petruziello caught three touchdown passes.
The second game of the season would emerge as Petruziello’s finest hour. With the Cleveland franchise having never won a game in franchise history, their home opener would be the perfect setting for a landmark moment.
Competing against the Omaha Heart at Quicken Loans Arena, Petruziello shined. Containing Heart running back Rayna Berryman, it set the tone of the game. Laying out hit after punishing hit on defense, she would also contribute on the offensive side of the ball. With seven minutes remaining, she caught a touchdown pass from Knipper to extend their lead over Omaha to a 12-0 tally.
Fittingly, she would be named the Game’s Most Valuable Player in a landmark event in franchise history. With Cleveland’s end zone paying homage to the NFL Browns as its dubbed the Crush Pound, Petruziello may be its most popular player. Her de-cleating hits against the Omaha Heart only built her legend as one of the league’s fiercest hitters.
Although the final two games of the season were losses against eventual playoff teams Baltimore and Philadelphia, said losses were by less than eight points each. Of note, Cleveland held considerable leads in both games.
The loss against Baltimore found backup quarterback Tiffany Soggs lining up behind center for Cleveland. Her touchdown pass to Petruziello gave the Crush an 18-6 lead. In the loss versus Philadelphia, Petruziello scored the first touchdown of the game while Cleveland built up a 20-7 halftime lead.
While the more experienced Baltimore and Philadelphia teams mounted comebacks, it was a tremendous step in Cleveland’s development. Such valiant performances are the foundation upon which a winner may come to pass in the near future.
With the impression that Petruziello and Fennell made as the foundation for an explosive offense and a stout defense, it was no surprise that they were recruited to compete for LFL Canada’s expansion franchise; the Calgary Fillies. While the Canadian season was delayed until 2014, the thought of this dynamic duo competing north of the border would have certainly spoiled Calgary’s football fans.
In the meanwhile, the city of Cleveland has a football hero they can be proud to call one of their own. Whether you call her Terrific Theresa or Punishing Petruziello, she is a force to be reckoned with. With the thrill of helping the Crush earn their first franchise win, the following season may bring with it an even greater reward; a trip to the postseason.