In the history of the Women’s Football Alliance, it seems strange that the DC Divas and Chicago Force, two of the league’s signature franchises, had never encountered each other in regular season play. Landover, Maryland would serve as the backdrop for the historic inaugural match-up between the two during week three of the 2014 WFA campaign.
This Eastern Conference matchup started in dramatic fashion as special teams played a key part in the opening kickoff. With the Force receiving, Dominique Jacobs reversed field twice, but despite her efforts, ended up fumbling the ball less than five yards from the end zone. The Divas snatched on the opportunity to recover the fumble and run it into the end zone for a touchdown.
Ironically, special teams would follow with high impact on the next play. With DC going for the extra point, Angel Smith managed to block it. Martha Dantuma grabbed the ball and returned it 90 yards for the two-point score (just like collegiate football, a blocked PAT that is returned to the opposing end zone is only awarded two points).
With a 6-2 score on the first two plays of the game, consuming a mere 10 seconds, the stage was set for an exciting contest. Chicago gained possession on the third play of the game and managed to grab the lead for the first time in the contest. Seven plays resulted in a 16-yard toss from Sami Grisafe to Jeanette Gray. With Darcy Leslie running for the two-point conversion, Chicago enjoyed a 10-6 advantage.
Proving why they are the defending league champions, Chicago capitalized on the momentum, never relinquishing again during the game. During the second quarter, DC managed to trim Chicago’s lead to one-point with the scoreboard reading 21-20 in favor of Chicago. Despite the effort to mount a comeback, Chicago quickly squashed DC’s hopes with two touchdowns for the 35-20 halftime advantage.
The passing game for DC was stifled at times due to a pair of different pivots lining up behind centre. With starting quarterback Allison Hamlin suffering a foot injury in Week 1, the Divas have been forced to exercise other options. Callie Brownson and Ashley Wisonant both played quarterback against Chicago, employing a running game which took advantage of Chicago’s defensive line being called for four offside penalties.
Despite their efforts, neither Brownson nor Wisonant could measure up to Force quarterback Sami Grisafe. Her presence on offense is undisputed as the Force managed six touchdowns on their first nine possessions. Of those six TD’s, three were passes from Grisafe, who went 20-27 with a sparkling 308 passing yards.
Although the Force defense committed some penalties which kept the Divas close, the D came through when it mattered. On the final play of the game, a sack was made, preserving the 42-27 victory. Darcy Leslie would lead all Force players with 16 tackles while Angel Smith registered five tackles for a loss among her 11 on this day.
Perhaps the most impressive statistics belonged to All-World player Jeanette Gray. Continuing to distinguish herself as the finest receiver in WFA circles, she had a sensational performance of 15 receptions and a sterling 252 yards. This performance was complemented by three receiving touchdowns, a rushing score and a two-point conversion.