Recap vs. Atlanta Xplosion – July 14, 2007

Xplosion Blow Up Divas’ Dream of Consecutive Titles
Atlanta 28, DC 18
By Rich Daniel

Atlanta, GA – The D.C. Divas’ historic run at football immortality came to an unceremonious and dispiriting end Saturday night. On the road, in front of a hostile crowd, against the defending IWFL champion Atlanta Xplosion, the Divas fought valiantly to keep their dream of back-to-back national championships alive. But in the end, despite a heroic late game rally, the Divas’ season culminated with a hard-fought 28-18 playoff loss.

“This is a tremendous disappointment,” said general manager Rich Daniel. “We had another amazing season, but it obviously ended too soon. Atlanta is the defending champion for a reason.”

The game matched two of the elite teams of women’s football: both the Divas and the Xplosion entered the conference semifinal game with perfect regular season records. True to form, the two evenly matched teams turned much of the first half into a rough-and-tumble defensive stalemate. With just 1:25 left in the second quarter, the Divas (8-1) finally broke open the scoreless game with a 32-yard rushing touchdown. Despite a failed two-point conversion attempt, DC led, 6-0, at halftime.

The rugged and tempestuous standoff continued until late in the third quarter. A roughing the center penalty against the Divas’ special teams unit helped keep an Atlanta scoring drive alive. The controversial call provided the emotional catalyst for Atlanta’s dormant offense. The Xplosion (9-0) scored touchdowns on three consecutive possessions to take a seemingly insurmountable 21-6 lead midway through the fourth quarter.

While Atlanta continued to celebrate their third touchdown, the visitors from DC pulled off a brilliant display of razzle-dazzle. On the ensuing kickoff, the Divas executed a perfect reverse play, with return-ace Kathryn Hemlock handing off to wide receiver Tara Stephenson for a 75-yard touchdown return. The electrifying play cut the Divas’ deficit to 21-12 with just over six minutes still to play.

Minutes later, the Divas were on the march again. Quarterback Allyson Hamlin led a dramatic, late-game drive, culminating in a touchdown pass to Donna Wilkinson. Again, however, the two-point conversion attempt failed. With just two minutes left in regulation, the Divas trailed by only three, 21-18.

Following the score, the Divas special teams nearly came up big once again. An onside kick attempt caromed off several Atlanta defenders, leading to a mad scramble for possession. The opportunity was lost when the Xplosion somehow recovered the loose ball.

As the final moments counted down, the famed DC defense attempted to make one last, courageous stand. On every snap, the Atlanta ball carriers were met by a swarm of defenders, each desperately trying to strip the football away. In the end, with the Divas forced to crowd the line of scrimmage, Atlanta running back Onetha Cannon ran wide, turned the corner, and was gone. The 60-yard touchdown, Cannon’s third of the game, iced the playoff win for the Xplosion and ended the Divas’ championship hopes.

While the season ended on a discouraging note, the effort and sacrifice made by each and every member of the organization did not go unnoticed. Following the game, Daniel profoundly surmised the true definition of a DC Diva. “We may not have won tonight, but I am proud of everyone associated with this football team. To me, every member of this group is still a champion.”

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