Recap vs. Connecticut Crush – May 12, 2001

Women’s Football Debuts in Nation’s Capital With a 10-6 Victory
DC 10, Connecticut 6
By Neal Rozendaal

Washington, DC – The D.C. Divas gave their home fans a reason to celebrate. Making their debut at Eastern High School in northeast DC, the Divas earned their first victory in team history, scoring a touchdown with under two minutes to play to secure a thrilling, come-from-behind win over the Connecticut Crush, 10-6.

It was the first women’s football game ever played in Washington, DC. The Divas (1-2) had made great strides over the previous two weeks, but they were still searching for their first victory.

The Connecticut Crush (0-3) looked ready to spoil the party early in the game. The Crush got on the scoreboard first midway through the first quarter. A quarterback sneak by Leslee Frederickson from one-yard out gave the Crush the first touchdown of the contest. A bad snap prevented Connecticut from attempting the extra point kick, and the Divas fell behind, 6-0.

In the second quarter, the Divas notch their first points of the game, and again, it was the defense that provided a scoring lift. The Divas scored their first points in team history last week in Massachusetts when defensive end Donna Wilkinson intercepted a pass for a touchdown. Against Connecticut, Wilkinson sacked Frederickson in the end zone for a safety, cutting the Divas’ deficit to 6-2.

Defensively, Donna Wilkinson would end the game with six tackles, two sacks, and a fumble recovery. After the game, Divas head coach Ezra Cooper praised the play of his versatile star. “She’s just a special player. She doesn’t come off the field,” Cooper said.

Yet the Crush maintained their four-point lead going into the halftime intermission, and the deficit looked insurmountable at times as the D.C. offense struggled for the third straight week. Divas quarterback Deb Troell faced a heavy Connecticut rush for most of the game, which resulted in Troell being sacked eight times. It appeared that a Divas offense which hadn’t produced any points for nearly three complete games would be unable to help the home team to victory.

But with five minutes remaining in the game, the Divas started to put together their best offensive drive of the game. Wilkinson, who took over the fullback position on offense, helped the Divas move the chains for first downs. She picked up 27 yards on four carries in the Divas’ decisive drive.

The Divas advanced the ball to the Connecticut 15-yard line with just under two minutes left in the game. Troell lofted a pass to the end zone, where Divas wide receiver Brooke Hargrove had broken free. Hargrove reeled in the pass for the first offensive touchdown in Divas history, a clutch score that put the Divas ahead, 8-6. Wilkinson rushed for a two-point conversion to pad the Divas’ lead to 10-6 with 1:38 remaining in the game.

The Divas defense, which had stifled the Crush offense since midway through the first quarter, preserved the victory. The D.C. Divas thrilled the home crowd with the first women’s football victory in D.C. history.

Quarterback Deb Troell endured heavy pressure all game to finish with five pass completions on 16 attempts for 62 yards and one historic touchdown. Hargrove finished the contest with two catches for 22 yards and the winning score. “We tried [that pass play] in the first half, and I couldn’t quite get to [the pass]. I felt really bad about it,” Hargove said. But Coach Ezra Cooper didn’t lose confidence in his wide receiver. “Coach said, ‘Keep your head up. We need you.’ He had the faith in me to run it two more times.”

Coach Cooper’s confidence in his team paid off with a win in the first women’s football game ever played in Washington, DC. After leading the Divas to their first victory in franchise history, Cooper savored the moment. “I’m so proud of them,” he said when asked about coaching the Divas. “It’s one of the most rewarding experiences I’ve had.”

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