Recap vs. Boston Renegades – April 16, 2016
D.C. Divas Rally Late To Defeat Boston Renegades in Thriller, 35-32
DC 35, Boston 32
By Neal Rozendaal
Boston, MA – That is how champions respond.
In a seesaw contest punctuated by eight lead changes, the D.C. Divas engineered the latest comeback in team history when Kentrina Wilson reeled in the game-winning touchdown pass with just 17 seconds remaining to defeat the Boston Renegades, 35-32. Faced with the prospect of dropping to 0-2 due to a brutal schedule to start the 2016 season, the defending national champion Divas came out on top in a thrilling contest and re-established themselves as contenders in the Eastern Conference of the Women’s Football Alliance (WFA).
The Divas (1-1) dropped their season opener against the reigning Western Conference champion Dallas Elite, 40-19. Just seven days later, the battle-weary Divas hit the road to square off against their archrivals, the undefeated Boston Renegades. The Renegades (2-1) lost twice to the Divas last season, and they were looking to regain the upper hand in the rivalry with a win.
The Renegades chose to receive the opening kickoff to begin the game. Their first drive stalled at the D.C. 42-yard line when quarterback Allison Cahill’s pass on fourth and one fell incomplete.
The D.C. offense immediately went to work on its first drive. Set up by a long reception by Shaquanda Gainey to the Boston two-yard line, quarterback Allyson Hamlin rushed for the first touchdown of the contest with 10:52 remaining in the first quarter. Stephanie Nealis added the extra point kick for a 7-0 lead.
The Renegades scored consecutive touchdowns to take their first lead. Cahill connected with Emily Beinecke on a touchdown pass for Boston’s first score of the contest. A missed PAT kick allowed the Divas to hold onto the slimmest of leads, 7-6, but after a three and out by the Divas, the Renegades struck again. Asia Landrum rushed for the Boston score, and although the two-point conversion pass fell incomplete, the Renegades had their first lead, 12-7.
The Divas gained a little momentum back, however, when Christina Burton recovered a surprise onside kick. The Divas offense capitalized on the excellent field position and drove down to the Boston three-yard line as the first quarter ended.
Running back Kenyetta Grigsby took the handoff on the first play of the second quarter and rushed the remaining three yards for a D.C. touchdown. Nealis added the extra point, and the Divas had regained the lead, 14-12, with 14:55 to play before halftime.
Boston wide receiver Adrienne Smith would make her presence felt in the second quarter. She reeled in a 16-yard touchdown pass from Cahill, and although the two-point conversion pass fell incomplete, Boston went back ahead, 18-14.
The Divas once again had an answer. On their ensuing drive, the Divas capped off a 58-yard march to the end zone with a 20-yard touchdown pass from Hamlin to wide receiver Kentrina Wilson. Nealis’ third PAT kick of the half gave the Divas a 21-18 advantage with 9:12 remaining before halftime.
It had been a wild offensive shootout for the first quarter and a half, but both defenses stepped up over the next several minutes with three straight stops. Cahill threw incomplete on fourth and one from the D.C. 49-yard line to give the Divas possession of the ball, but four plays later, the Divas handed it right back when Hamlin’s pass to wide receiver Ashley Whisonant netted only six yards on fourth and eight.
The Renegades threw three incomplete passes and punted to the D.C. 34-yard line. The Divas, leading by three points, marched into Boston territory looking to extend their advantage. But Hamlin was picked off on a deep throw at the Renegades’ eight-yard line, ending the Divas’ scoring chance.
Pinned deep in their own territory, the Renegades were forced to punt to their own 42-yard line with only 1:09 remaining before halftime. The Divas’ offense took over with great field position and their third opportunity to build on a 21-18 lead.
But the half ended disastrously for the D.C. Divas. The Divas could only gain seven yards on the next three plays, and a fourth down pass fell incomplete. Not only did the Divas surrender possession of the ball, but the Renegades also had 37 seconds with which to work.
The Boston offense – which had been stalled for much of the second quarter – sprang to life again, courtesy of Adrienne Smith. Cahill found Smith on a long pass at the D.C. 30-yard line. Three plays later, Boston faced fourth and five from the Divas’ 25-yard line with only four seconds left to play before intermission.
Cahill found Smith open at the ten-yard line, and Smith dove for the end zone, stretching the ball about a foot past the goal line. Smith’s 25-yard touchdown catch as time expired in the second quarter gave the Renegades a 25-21 halftime lead.
The touchdown pass at the end of the first half demoralized the Divas sideline, and it showed as the second half began. On the Divas’ first possession of the second half, Hamlin threw her second interception of the contest at the Boston 44-yard line.
When Boston took the field for their first offensive possession of the third quarter, a familiar #33 was spotted in the backfield. Boston running back Whitney Zelee broke every known women’s football record in 2013, rushing for over 3,000 yards that season. But she has seen limited action the past two seasons due to injuries and had not appeared in a game since suffering an injury against the Divas on May 2, 2015. Despite not playing in the first half, Zelee took the field and got a few carries in the second.
Yet the Renegades were unable to capitalize on Hamlin’s interception, punting to the Divas’ 39-yard line. The Divas took their fourth lead of the game by capping off a 61-yard drive with a two-yard quarterback keeper by Hamlin into the end zone. The Divas led, 28-25, with 4:55 left in the third quarter.
Boston responded on their next drive. Cahill completed a long pass on fourth and six for a first down to keep the drive alive, and the Renegades had the ball on the Divas’ 16-yard line as the third quarter ended.
Just as the Divas did in the second quarter, the Renegades opened the fourth quarter with a touchdown. Cahill found Beinecke for a 16-yard score to put Boston back in front, 32-28. Allison Cahill ended the game with no interceptions and four touchdown passes, with Adrienne Smith and Emily Beinecke hauling in two apiece.
With time ticking down in the fourth quarter, the Divas advanced to Boston’s side of the field and faced fourth and nine from the Renegades’ 44. Eschewing the temptation to go for it, the Divas relied on their defense and punted to the Boston 19-yard line.
Giving away possession was a risky move, especially when the Renegades – already leading by four points – began moving the ball down the field. But linebacker Kira Robinson made the defensive play of the game for the Divas with a rare sack of Cahill for a crippling 15-yard loss. The Renegades drew a delay of game penalty as they tried to milk the clock, and facing second and 30, they were forced to punt two plays later. The Divas took possession of the ball at their own 47-yard line with 4:14 remaining in the game.
Trailing by four points, the Divas began handing the ball liberally to Grigsby, their workhorse running back. Grigsby began picking up first downs, but the clock was slipping away. The Divas used their first timeout with 1:18 to play at the Boston 28-yard line. Two plays and eight yards later, the Divas spent their second timeout with 46 seconds left in the game.
On third and two, Hamlin called her own number and used the quarterback sneak to pick up a first down. She then quickly got up, got the team set, took the snap, and handed the ball to Grigsby, who powered forward for a first and goal down at the Renegades’ four-yard line. The Divas called their final timeout of the game, stopping the clock with 20 seconds left.
The Divas might have had time for four shots at the end zone, but it only took them one. On first and goal, Hamlin took the snap and lofted a pass to her right for Kentrina Wilson. Wilson caught the ball at the back of the end zone, tapped both feet down, and then fell into a sand pit located on the track just beyond the field of play. Wilson’s touchdown catch with 17 seconds left gave the Divas their fifth and final lead of the contest, and Nealis’ extra point made the score 35-32. Allyson Hamlin finished the game with two touchdowns on the ground and two touchdown passes, with both of her scoring tosses going to Kentrina Wilson.
Any hope of a miraculous Boston comeback was squelched when the Boston kickoff returner was shoved out of bounds at the Renegades’ 22-yard line with ten seconds left. Two plays later, time expired on the latest comeback in Divas franchise history. The victory in Boston was the 111th win in the history of the D.C. Divas but the first time that the Divas scored a game-winning touchdown with under 30 seconds to play.
The D.C. Divas are now 3-0 all-time against the Boston Renegades franchise after years of frustrating losses to their predecessors, the Boston Militia. The Divas will square off against the Renegades again in both teams’ regular season finale in D.C. on June 4.
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