Recap vs. Philadelphia Liberty Belles – April 28, 2001

D.C. Divas Make History As DC’s First Women’s Full-Contact Football Team
Philadelphia 40, DC 0
By Neal Rozendaal

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Philadelphia, PA – The significance of the event far outweighed the final result on the scoreboard. The first women’s football team from Washington, DC – named the D.C. Divas – took the field for their inaugural game in Philadelphia against the Liberty Belles. Although the Divas were on the short end of a 40-0 defeat, it was a historic moment for women’s sports in Washington, DC.

The Divas (0-1) chose to receive the opening kickoff, and Philadelphia kicked off to begin the game. Wide receiver Tara Kallal made the first play in Divas history, returning the opening kickoff ten yards. The first offensive play was a run by running back Jane Reynolds, who took the handoff and broke free for a nine-yard gain.

Unfortunately for the Divas, that would be their longest offensive play of the game. D.C. was clearly less organized than their Philadelphia opponents; the Divas’ pads arrived just two weeks before the game, so the team hadn’t had much time to practice in them or get used to them. Meanwhile, the Divas’ new jerseys were so ill-fitting that the team played the contest in their practice jerseys.

The Liberty Belles (2-0) had no such obstacles. Their team had been practicing together for the better part of a year, and they won their first game in team history last weekend, beating the Connecticut Crush, 20-6. The Divas, who had been scheduled to start the season against the Baltimore Burn last weekend, saw their game cancelled on account of poor field conditions. As a result, the Divas played their season opener against a Philadelphia team which already had a game under its belt this year.

The Liberty Belles’ superior preparation was evident. The Divas were forced to punt on their first possession in team history, and Stacy Palmer booted a 28-yard kick. Defensive back Alison Fischer dropped the Philadelphia punt returner for the first tackle in franchise history. But the Liberty Belles then drove down the field and scored on a touchdown by running back Annette Fatiga, and they converted on a two-point run to give Philly an 8-0 lead midway through the first quarter.

D.C. quarterback Deb Troell threw incomplete on the first pass attempt in Divas history, and two plays later, she fumbled the ball on a sack to give the Liberty Belles great field position. Philadelphia quickly scored on a rushing touchdown by running back Alissa Wykes, and that extended the lead to 14-0. Another sack on the Divas’ next possession resulted in a safety and a 16-0 lead for the Liberty Belles after one quarter of play.

Following the safety, Philadelphia fielded the free kick and promptly scored their third rushing touchdown, this one by running back Donna Garrett. Garrett would finish the game with 115 rushing yards and a touchdown, and Wykes added the two-point conversion run for a 24-0 advantage.

The Divas were held without a first down for the entire game, and they soon had to punt the ball back to the Liberty Belles. With only a minute remaining before halftime, Alissa Wykes scored her second rushing touchdown of the game, and another two-point conversion run made the score 32-0 at halftime. Wykes ended the contest with 109 rushing yards and two touchdowns plus a two-point conversion.

The second half moved quickly with the outcome no longer in doubt. The highlight of the second half for the Divas came when Georgia Schnarrs and Rebecca Mead teamed up to drag down a Philly ballcarrier for a loss, the first tackle for loss by the Divas’ defense. But overall, the Liberty Belles continued to shut down the Divas’ offense and added one more rushing touchdown in the fourth quarter for a 40-0 victory. With a 2-0 record, Philadelphia is now on top of the NWFL standings and is an early favorite to win the national championship in women’s football this season.

On the other hand, despite the loss, the Divas will savor the moment, having made history as the first women’s football team in Washington, DC. The D.C. Divas will look to grow and improve as a team as their season goes on. The Divas will continue their season on the road next Saturday when they travel to Boston to take on the Massachusetts Mutiny.

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