Recap vs. Tampa Bay Inferno – May 4, 2019
D.C. Divas’ Offense Explodes in 71-30 Victory over Tampa Bay
DC 71, Tampa Bay 30
By Neal Rozendaal
Springfield, VA – With a young, rebuilding defense, the D.C. Divas knew that their offense would need to carry them throughout the 2019 season.
So far, they appear to be more than up to the task.
Amanda Congialdi threw five touchdown passes, D’Ajah Scott added five more on the ground, and the D.C. Divas routed the Tampa Bay Inferno, 71-30. The Divas amassed a franchise-record 760 yards of total offense, obliterating the previous mark of 580 yards set against the Tennessee Venom on May 18, 2002.
The Inferno (2-3) actually got the game off to a promising start. After a good return of the opening kickoff and a key fourth down conversion, Tampa Bay drove into scoring territory and kicked a field goal for an early 3-0 lead.
The Divas (2-1) quickly erased that deficit and took a lead they would never relinquish. Newcomer Lexie Floor continued her impressive start to her Divas career with a 52-yard touchdown reception that put the Divas in front, 6-3.
The Tampa Bay offense went three and out on their next possession, and a high snap on their punt attempt gave the Divas great field position at the Inferno 12-yard line. D’Ajah Scott quickly cashed in with a one-yard touchdown plunge, and the Divas extended their advantage to 13-3.
The Inferno appeared ready to counter that score with a strong drive to the Divas’ 25-yard line. But Whitney Simms, who is emerging as a leader on defense, ripped the ball out of the Inferno ballcarrier’s hands and returned it 20 yards to the D.C. 38-yard line.
On the Divas’ next offensive play, Kentrina Wilson hauled in a 28-yard pass into Tampa Bay territory. That catch was #218 of Wilson’s stellar career with D.C., surpassing the franchise mark for career pass receptions previously held by Ashley Whisonant.
Wilson’s catch set up a highlight reel play for D’Ajah Scott. Scott took the handoff, broke an arm tackle, and then juked four Tampa Bay defenders on a stop-and-start run for a 36-yard score. Scott’s second score of the game increased the Divas’ lead to 20-3 after one quarter of play.
The D.C. defense forced another Tampa Bay punt early in the second quarter, and the Divas took over at their own 29-yard line. Quarterback Amanda Congialdi found Floor deep down the sideline, and she appeared to outrun the Inferno defenders for a 71-yard touchdown. But the officials ruled that she stepped out of bounds at the Tampa Bay 13-yard line.
Floor’s long catch instead set up Scott’s third touchdown run on the very next play, as Scott zoomed into the end zone from 13 yards out. Early in the second quarter, the Divas pulled ahead, 26-3.
The Inferno then responded with possibly their best offensive drive of the game. Tampa Bay quarterback Kim Shaw hooked up with wide receiver Candace Pistole on a 44-yard touchdown pass, and the Inferno cut their deficit to 26-10.
Any momentum Tampa Bay might have gained from their first touchdown of the contest was short-lived. On the ensuing kickoff, Scott fielded the kick on a bounce, got a huge block from Simms, and raced down the sideline for a 76-yard kickoff return touchdown. Scott’s fourth touchdown of the game put the Divas back in front, 32-10, with 10:50 left in the second quarter.
The Divas poured it on from there. On the Inferno’s first play of their next drive, Divas defensive back Jessica Johnson came up with an interception at the D.C. 36. Lexie Floor pulled down a 33-yard pass into Tampa Bay territory, and soon after, Kasee Hilliard fielded a 24-yard strike from Congialdi for the touchdown and a 39-10 Divas advantage.
One of the Divas’ defensive leaders, Miteka Trueheart, had a huge tackle for loss of ten yards to halt Tampa Bay’s next drive and force a punt. Then it was time for Wilson to shine again. While career reception #218 for the Divas set a team record, catch #219 was perhaps more memorable, a 78-yard bomb from Congialdi for another Divas score and a 45-10 lead.
With under a minute left in the first half, the Divas’ defense forced a turnover on downs. Not to be lost in the offensive explosion was the steadily improving play of the young Divas’ defense, which kept Tampa Bay under wraps for most of the game while the outcome was still in doubt. Simms led the team with eight tackles and a fumble return, and Jessica Johnson had six tackles and an interception. Trueheart and Mara Lockard each added 5.5 tackles, while veteran standout Jen King contributed five tackles.
Just 38 seconds remained in the first half when the Divas took over at their own 40-yard line. That would not be enough time to put a drive together for many offenses, but for the 2019 D.C. Divas, it was time enough to spare.
Congialdi hit Dana Blakey with two long passes, the second a 33-yard touchdown with 17 seconds left in the half. Lexie Floor led the Divas with 143 receiving yards, while Blakey and Wilson each had 106 yards receiving; it was the second straight contest where the Divas had three receivers top 100 yards receiving. Blakey’s touchdown catch made it a 52-10 Divas advantage at the halftime break.
The D.C. Divas received the second half kickoff and immediately picked up where they left off in the first half. D’Ajah Scott broke free for a 73-yard jaunt to the end zone, her fifth touchdown of the game. Scott, who finished the contest with 129 rushing yards, tied the franchise record for most touchdowns (5) and points (30) in a game, a record also held by Kenyetta Grigsby, Ashley Whisonant, and Rachelle Pecovsky. Scott’s final touchdown of the game gave the Divas a 58-10 lead early in the third period.
The Divas played a number of reserves for the rest of the game, and Tampa Bay outplayed the Divas at times in the second half. After the Divas stopped Tampa Bay for a turnover on downs, the Inferno did the same to the Divas’ offense. It was the first stop for the Inferno defense after the Divas had scored eight touchdowns on their first eight offensive possessions as well as Scott’s kickoff return touchdown.
The Inferno then pulled a little closer on a touchdown pass. With three minutes left in the third quarter, the Divas led, 58-16.
Amanda Congialdi played her final series of the game to close out the third quarter. She had narrowly eclipsed the franchise record for passing yards in a game of 388 – a record she had set one week earlier – when she dropped back for her last pass of the contest. She checked a pass down to running back Curtina Pope, and Pope broke free for a 79-yard touchdown reception. Congialdi ended the game with a team-record 474 passing yards and five touchdown passes in three quarters of play, and Pope’s touchdown with six seconds left in the third quarter gave the Divas a 65-16 lead.
In the fourth quarter, the Inferno offense continued to heat up against the Divas’ reserves. First, a Tampa Bay touchdown pass and two-point conversion made the score 65-24. Then the Inferno recovered the ensuing kickoff and drove down for another touchdown pass and a 65-30 deficit with just over ten minutes left in the game.
Backup quarterback Ashley Clark put the final exclamation point on the day’s scoring for the Divas. Clark found Madeleine Entwistle down the sideline, and Entwistle cut back into the middle of the field and sprinted for a 73-yard touchdown. Entwistle’s score was the Divas’ fifth touchdown on the evening of 70 yards or more. Mara Lockard then came through with a sack as the D.C. defense made a goal line stand near the end of the game, and the Divas came away with an impressive 71-30 victory over the Tampa Bay Inferno.
The Divas’ 71 points on the evening were the most the team had scored since registering a franchise record 77-0 victory over the Northeastern Nitro on May 7, 2011. After three straight home games at the beautiful St. James to start the season, the Divas have a bye week before their first road contest of the year against their oldest rivals, the Pittsburgh Passion.