Recap vs. Connecticut Crush – June 28, 2003

D.C. Divas Crush Connecticut, 76-0
DC 76, Connecticut 0
By Leah Fahringer and Rich Daniel

Recap • Statistics

Washington, DC – The D.C. Divas had waited three years for their first playoff game in team history. Saturday’s performance proved to be worth the wait.

The Divas exploded for a 76-0 playoff victory over the visiting Connecticut Crush in a National Conference quarterfinal game. It was the most points the Divas have ever scored in a single game and the largest margin of victory in the three-year history of the D.C. Divas.

The Divas (8-1) took control of the game early with a touchdown at the beginning of the first quarter. Running back Donna Wilkinson carried the ball into the end zone, and fullback LaShawn Foust ran in for the two-point conversion to make the score 8-0. The Divas’ second touchdown of the evening followed swiftly as Wilkinson again ran into the end zone with the ball, giving the Divas full control of the contest with the scoreboard showing a 14-0 advantage for DC.

The Crush (7-3) finished second in the NWFA’s Northern Division, while the Divas were the champions of the Mid-Atlantic Division. The Divas were clearly fueled by pre-game comments from members of the Crush, who stated that the Crush would have won the Mid-Atlantic title had they been in the Divas’ division this season. Quarterback Allyson Hamlin’s first pass of the game went to TaQuina Billups for a 45-yard touchdown with less than two minutes remaining in the first quarter, and the Divas led, 20-0, after just one period.

Although the Crush continued to fight, they were clearly outmatched. Divas running back Monica Livingston broke free for a 55-yard touchdown run with less than a minute gone in the second quarter, and with a successful conversion by Wilkinson, the Divas were leading, 28-0. Less than two minutes later, Hamlin threw her second pass of the game, and this one also went for a long score, a 50-yard touchdown reception by Vickie Lucas.  After a successful two-point conversion by Livingston, the score was quickly 36-0 with 12:12 still left in the first half.

The Crush offense then put together their best drive of the half in the hopes of denting the scoreboard, but the D.C. defense ultimately shut them down. The Divas’ offense, on the other hand, wasn’t finished for the half. With 2:55 remaining in the first half, the Divas notched their sixth touchdown of the game when Hamlin threw another touchdown pass, this one to Nikki Williams. The two-point conversion was run in by Foust, and the score at the half was 44-0 in favor of the Divas.

The Crush received the ball to start the second half, but it didn’t take long for the Divas to show that the second half would be much like the first. DC cornerback Angela Head picked off a Connecticut pass less than a minute into the second half, and Foust scored a rushing touchdown with 10:18 on the clock in the third quarter.  After a successful two-point conversion run, the Divas were on top, 52-0.

Two more touchdowns followed in quick succession. First, reserve quarterback Deb Troell ran the ball 11 yards into the end zone for a score, with Foust completing her third two-point conversion of the game for a 60-0 score. Then Lilah Blackstone caught a touchdown pass from Troell for the Divas’ ninth touchdown of the contest. With Stacy Palmer kicking the extra point, DC led the Crush, 67-0, with 1:24 left in the third period.

As time expired in the period, a swarm of Divas defenders led by defensive back Candy Love tackled a Connecticut ball carrier in the end zone for a safety. The Divas opened the fourth quarter holding a commanding 69-0 advantage. The Divas tacked on one final touchdown of the game – their tenth – midway through the fourth quarter to make the final score an astounding 76-0.

In front of a raucous home crowd, the Divas’ defense recorded their third shutout of the year. Linebacker Sharina Western was named the defensive MVP for the second time this year after becoming a starter just four weeks ago, taking over the spot from an injured Tessa Nelson. Western’s two interceptions – including an athletic 42-yard interception return – helped the Divas secure their first ever playoff shutout.

The offense returned to its early season prowess by racking up 429 total yards and ten touchdowns. Quarterback Allyson Hamlin encouraged her teammates before the game, “Lose yourselves in the moment.” Hamlin did just that with a performance of six completions in 10 attempts for 158 yards and three touchdowns in only one half of play. Monica Livingston, who captured the offensive MVP of the game, led the rushing attack with 101 yards and a touchdown. League-leading rusher Donna Wilkinson added 43 yards and two touchdowns, while LaShawn Foust continued her impressive, hard-nosed running with 45 yards on ten carries. Wilkinson has tallied 1,070 yards in nine contests this season.

In total, the Divas punished the Crush with 255 yards on the ground. “When we run our ‘Stud’ backfield package and we do it right, I don’t think we can lose,” said head coach Ezra Cooper. “I really like the way our defense is stepping up, and I look forward to the return of some of our veterans. We all remember what our next opponent did to us in year one.”

With this decisive win over Connecticut, the D.C. Divas advance to the conference semifinal round of the playoffs and will travel to Philadelphia to face the Phoenix on July 12. The matchup with Philadelphia is pivotal for two reasons. First and foremost, the winner will advance to the NWFA Northern Conference championship game, which will be held in Detroit or Cleveland on July 26. The league championship game will be held on August 2 in Nashville, Tennessee.

But secondly, the D.C. Divas will be returning to Philadelphia for the first time since their inaugural game in 2001, where the Philadelphia Liberty Belles handed the Divas a crushing 40-0 defeat. Many of these Phoenix players played for the Liberty Belles in that 2001 meeting, and the Divas are looking for some payback.

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