Recap vs. Boston Militia – April 2, 2011

D.C. Divas Defeat Boston Militia in League Debut, 35-20
DC 35, Boston 20
By Neal Rozendaal

Recap • Statistics

Landover, MD – New league, new coach, and a host of new and un-retired players. But it was last year’s backup running back who stole the show for the new-look D.C. Divas Saturday.

In their first game as members of a new league, the Divas topped their archrivals, the Boston Militia, by a 35-20 score. The Divas (1-0) handed the Militia their first regular season loss since 2008 thanks largely to a record-setting day by Divas running back Kenyetta Grigsby.

This offseason, the Divas joined many of their rivals in moving to the Women’s Football Alliance (WFA). The simultaneous move by ten of the top franchises in women’s football has solidified the WFA as the strongest league in women’s football. One of the powerhouse franchises that moved with the Divas to the WFA this season was the Boston Militia (0-1), the defending national champions.

The Divas also had a coaching change this offseason, as veteran coach Tim Smart took over the reins as head coach of the Divas. Smart won a national championship with the Divas in 2006 as the team’s offensive line coach, and he has a wealth of experience from having served as the head coach of three other women’s football teams in his decorated career.

With Smart’s arrival, numerous Divas players who sat out the 2010 season have returned to the field this year. One of those players who came out of retirement was quarterback Allyson Hamlin, the team’s star signal-caller.

Yet even with Hamlin’s return, it was Kenyetta Grigsby who served as the focal point of the offense in the team’s 2011 debut. Grigsby – who joined the Divas in 2010 after several years with two Baltimore teams – had been a backup running back for the Divas in her first season in D.C.

But it was clear against the Militia that Grigsby was going to be the team’s featured back. She made the most of it, carrying the ball 23 times for a franchise-record 243 yards and three touchdowns.

Defensively, the Divas showed vast improvement under the watch of new defensive coordinator Ezra Cooper. Coach Cooper, the iconic head coach of the Divas from 2001-2008, came out of retirement to serve under Smart, his former offensive line coach. Cooper’s defense played inspired football, holding the Militia to just 54 yards on the ground.

The Divas led the game from the start and fended off several Militia challenges. The final challenge came in the fourth quarter, when the Divas entered the final period with a 28-20 lead. Boston advanced the ball to the Divas’ 30-yard line, where they faced fourth and four. But Cooper’s defense made a stand, stopping the Militia and forcing a turnover on downs.

Grigsby had 199 rushing yards on the day with just under a minute remaining in the game. The Divas had the ball at Boston’s 44-yard line and were trying to run out the clock on a victory. Everyone on the Boston sideline knew who would get the ball, so the Militia defenders crowded the line of scrimmage, hoping for a stop. Hamlin handed the ball to Grigsby, and when she broke through the first line of Boston defenders, she was in the clear for a 44-yard touchdown run. That carry not only clinched the game but also gave Grigsby the single-game rushing record previously held by Okiima Pickett, who tallied 234 rushing yards against the Philadelphia Firebirds in 2009.

With the victory, the Divas have stamped themselves as legitimate contenders for the national championship in their new league. The season continues next weekend with a home game against the Keystone Assault.

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