Recap vs. New York Nemesis – May 22, 2010

DC Dismantles New York, 49-21
DC 49, New York 21
By Duke Hipp

Landover, MD – Maybe it was the rainy weather. Maybe it was the lingering effects from a bye week last Saturday. Whatever the culprit, the D.C. Divas spent much of the first half Saturday in their contest against the New York Nemesis sputtering on offense and plagued by penalties on defense.

In short, they didn’t much resemble the team that had laid claim to first place in the IWFL’s (Independent Women’s Football League) Southeast Division of the Eastern Conference.

But if the Divas were the football equivalent of a golf cart plodding along for the first 30 minutes of play, then they were a veritable army tank for the contest’s second stanza. When the smoke finally cleared, the Divas had scored 35 unanswered points. The Divas rolled over, around, and through the outmatched Nemesis – winning the game by a 49-21 score – and claimed another campaign on their march toward postseason play.

The contest started with a bang for the Divas (4-2), as they returned the game’s opening kickoff for a 72-yard touchdown that gave the home team an early 7-0 lead. But for most of the remaining first half, the Divas’ defensive and special teams’ performances were marred by big plays and big penalties – both in the wrong direction.

“I guess we just needed to motivate everyone and get on the same playing field to go out there and play,” said defensive lineman Jay Hodge. “It looked like we were very, very slow in the first half, to be honest. It wasn’t so much the weather…we just seemed a little off.”

But it was Hodge’s sack of the Nemesis quarterback on a critical fourth down near the close of the first half that seemed to flip DC’s defensive switch from “off” to “on” for good. It snuffed out a New York drive that ended near the Divas’ ten-yard line and signaled the beginning of a shutout for the unit the remainder of the night.

On offense, the Divas saw results from a cast of usual suspects who delivered clutch performances. Quarterback Kathryn Hemlock, tight end Donna Wilkinson, and wide receiver Tara Stephenson highlighted the Divas’ aerial attack. But it was the Divas’ monster ground game that stole the show. Running backs Kenyetta Grigsby and Okiima Pickett sliced the New York defense for most of the night like a hot knife moving through butter.

“Coach gave me advice to follow my blocks, since I was running straight into the defense,” said Grigsby. Good advice. Grigsby ended up with three touchdowns on the night. And while the DC defense came to life in the second half, the offensive unit did their part by tallying 35 unanswered points to close out the contest.

While it was the third straight loss for the Nemesis (2-5), the Divas improved to 4-2 and look formidable heading into their final two regular season games. The Philadelphia Firebirds are scheduled to pay a visit to DC on May 29. And though the Firebirds are next on the schedule, the regular season finale with the Boston Militia certainly looms large.

“We always think about Boston,” added Pickett. “We always play like we’re going against the best. Just so we can perfect our own game.” It’s an approach that worked against the Nemesis, delivered the Divas their fourth win of the year, and put them on a collision course with a familiar foe to end the season.

But Boston will have to wait. First, there’s Philly.

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