Recap vs. New England Intensity – April 28, 2007

D.C. Divas Show Intensity in League Debut
DC 70, New England 0
By Neal Rozendaal

Landover, MD – Long before the final gun sounded Saturday night, the D.C. Divas had made an emphatic statement: we came to play.

Competing for the very first time in the Independent Women’s Football League (IWFL), the defending NWFA champions proved they are as formidable a team as ever. Before a raucous home crowd at the Prince George’s Sports Complex, the Divas thoroughly dominated the visiting New England Intensity, 70-0.

The Divas (1-0) got off to a flying start, scoring on their first five possessions of the game. After a quick defensive stop, the Divas’ offense spring into action. Tara Kallal reeled in a 33-yard pass from Allyson Hamlin before getting tackled at the New England one-yard line. LaShawn Foust bulled it in from there to give the Divas their first touchdown as members of the IWFL. Rachelle Pecovsky ran for the two-point conversion, and the Divas seized an 8-0 lead.

The Intensity (0-1) had some of their best field position on their next drive, but they turned the ball over on downs at the D.C. 41. Four plays later, Hamlin hit Nikki Williams with a 48-yard touchdown pass, and Pecovsky’s second two-point conversion run of the game put the Divas in front, 16-0. Nikki Williams ended the contest with three catches for 65 yards and a touchdown.

Kathryn Hemlock set the Divas up for success on their next drive; after a strong stop by the defense, Hemlock returned an Intensity punt 40 yards down to the New England 27-yard line. On the very next play, Pecovsky sprinted to the end zone to give the Divas a commanding 22-0 lead. Rachelle Pecovsky, who set a franchise record with 1,432 rushing yards last season, got off to a strong start in 2007 with 114 rushing yards on the day and a touchdown. LaShawn Foust ran for the two-point conversion after Pecovsky’s touchdown to make the Divas’ lead 24-0 after one quarter of play.

As the second quarter began, the Divas took over at their own 34-yard line. A long nine-play march down the field ensued, and on fourth and long, Hamlin found Tara Stephenson for a 23-yard touchdown pass. Stephenson’s only catch of the day followed by another two-point conversion run extended the Divas’ advantage to 32-0 early in the second period.

Not to be lost in all the offensive fireworks, the Divas defense made life miserable for the Intensity offense all night long. One play after linebacker Tyran Dukes drilled a New England ballcarrier for an eight-yard loss, Jessica Heck fell on a fumble to put the Divas in business at the Intensity’s 29-yard line.

Two runs by Pecovsky advanced the ball for a first down at the 15-yard line. Rookie running back Okiima Pickett, playing in her first game, had an apparent 15-yard touchdown run called back by a penalty. But the Divas would not be denied, as a trick play netted another touchdown. On fourth and goal, Hamlin swung a backwards pass over to Nikki Williams, and Williams showed off her arm by tossing a 15-yard touchdown pass to Tara Kallal for a 38-0 lead. A fifth two-point conversion run in as many drives put the Divas in front by a score of 40-0 late in the second quarter.

Another three and out by New England gave the Divas one more chance at a score, but a sack and fumble led to the Divas’ only turnover of the game. D.C. would head to the locker room with a commanding 40-0 advantage at halftime.

The Divas picked up right where they left off to start the third quarter. Natalie Randolph returned the opening kickoff to the D.C. 18-yard line, and the Divas then took the ball 82 yards in seven plays to reach the end zone again. Tara Kallal caught a 32-yard pass from Hamlin for the score; Kallal led the Divas in receiving with 80 yards on just three receptions and two touchdowns.

Fullback Claudia Hogan powered ahead for the two-point conversion, and the score was 48-0 in favor of the Divas. After just one drive in the second half, Allyson Hamlin was relieved at quarterback by Raynette Savoy. Hamlin finished the game with 173 yards on 9-15 passing and three passing touchdowns.

Linebacker Ivy Tillman dragged a New England ballcarrier down for a three-yard loss on third down to bring up yet another Intensity punt. Hemlock returned the punt to midfield, and Savoy scrambled for a Divas first down on a 12-yard run. Okiima Pickett then scored the first touchdown of her career by racing 32 yards for the end zone, with the two-point conversion extending the Divas’ lead to 56-0 late in the third quarter.

The Divas’ defense forced another three-and-out from New England, giving up just 27 yards of total offense all game long. The Divas’ defense was at its best shutting down the New England rushing attack, which accounted for negative-24 yards in the contest. Trigger McNair, Tarlesha Wayne, and rookie linebacker Alissa Imbragulio led the Divas with 3.5 tackles each, while Amy Juang and Subrena Rivers both added three. Imbragulio was named the defensive MVP of the game in her first contest in a Divas uniform.

Kathryn Hemlock put an exclamation point on the end of the third quarter. On the final play of the period, she fielded a New England punt and returned it 72 yards for a Divas touchdown. Pickett rushed for the two-point conversion, and the Divas led, 64-0, after three quarters. Hemlock set a franchise record with 168 punt return yards on four returns and a touchdown.

Hemlock continued to make her presence felt as the fourth quarter began. On New England’s next drive, she intercepted a pass and returned it 32 yards to the Intensity 40-yard line. Three rushing plays netted 11 yards, and then Savoy again broke free for a 20-yard run that brought up first and goal from the nine-yard line. After Pickett lost a yard on first down, Hogan carried tacklers down to the two-yard line on a carry.

From there, Okiima Pickett scored her second career touchdown with a two-yard run over the goal line. Hemlock missed the Divas’ only extra point kick attempt of the game, but the Divas were firmly in front, 70-0. Pickett had a memorable debut with the Divas, rushing for 69 yards on eight carries with two touchdowns and a two-point conversion. Meanwhile, the team MVP on offense was awarded to the Divas’ entire offensive line, as they paved the way for a physical running game that rolled to 278 yards on the ground.

After one last defensive stop, the Divas ran out the clock on a dominating 70-0 victory. Head coach Ezra Cooper was pleased with his team’s performance under the circumstances. “I think everyone was a little apprehensive at first. New league, new team…we didn’t know exactly what to expect, but we were ready,” Cooper said. “We have a good, veteran team, and they know better than to let this go to their heads.”

Keeping the Divas grounded is the sight of their next big test: the Divas will go on the road next weekend for their first ever meeting against the powerful New York Sharks. The Sharks are 29-1 at home all-time in the regular season and have won 28 regular season home games in a row. New York has not lost a regular season game at home since dropping a 3-0 decision to the New England Storm seven years ago, and they have won three of the last four Eastern Conference championships in the IWFL.

← Previous Game Next Game →