Recap vs. Columbus Comets – June 22, 2013

Divas Advance in Playoffs by Extinguishing Comets, 40-12
DC 40, Columbus 12
By Neal Rozendaal

Recap • Statistics

Landover, MD – What’s the key to winning in the playoffs?

Trust your veteran stars to make big plays.

Quarterback Allyson Hamlin scored five touchdowns – four through the air and one on the ground – and linebacker Trigger McNair added a pair of sparkling defensive plays, and the D.C. Divas won their conference quarterfinal game over the Columbus Comets, 40-12.

Following a season-long trend, the Divas (6-3) struggled as they got off to another slow start. The Divas won the opening coin toss and chose to receive, but they fumbled the opening kickoff and the Comets offense took the field first.

It took the Comets (6-5) just two plays to make the Divas pay. Columbus quarterback Crystal Davis threw a short pass to Ayesha Jones, who found a seam in the defense and sprinted 42 yards for a touchdown. Less than a minute into the game, DC trailed, 6-0.

The Divas immediately threatened to even the score when Hamlin completed a 34-yard pass to the Columbus 27-yard line. But Hamlin’s next pass intended for Ashley Whisonant was tipped into the air and intercepted at the seven-yard line, ending the Divas’ threat.

The DC offense fared much better on their second possession. With Kenyetta Grigsby sitting out the game with an injury, Donna Wilkinson – who will be traveling to Finland this week with Team USA to compete in the IFAF Women’s World Championship – took over the starting running back role. Wilkinson gained 32 yards on six carries to help advance the ball down to the one-yard line. Hamlin tied the game, 6-6, on a one-yard quarterback sneak into the end zone.

The Divas seized control of the game with two quick scores early in the second quarter. First, Hamlin connected with Juliette Baker-Brice on a 65-yard touchdown to give the Divas a 13-6 advantage. Three plays later, the DC defense recorded their first of five turnovers in the contest – and they did it in spectacular fashion.

Linebacker Trigger McNair – who has been playing competitive women’s tackle football since 1999 – intercepted Davis’ pass at the DC 47-yard line. McNair returned the ball 11 yards, dragging a Columbus defender with her to the Comets 42-yard line. With a Columbus player clinging to her waist and unable to shake free, McNair lateraled the ball back to Eleni Kotsis, who was trailing the play. Kotsis motored down the DC sideline and raced the final 43 yards for a defensive touchdown, giving the Divas a 19-6 lead.

That was just the first of three interceptions for the Divas defense in the second period. Callie Brownson, who will be joining Wilkinson on Team USA, hauled in an interception on the Comets’ next drive. The Divas offense was unable to capitalize, however, and Columbus put together a long drive deep into DC territory.

D’Ajah Scott ended the threat by picking off a Davis pass in the end zone and running it out to the 24-yard line with 3:53 remaining in the half. Hamlin then led the Divas on a methodical, 76-yard drive, capping it with a five-yard touchdown pass to Baker-Brice with only 22 seconds left in the first half. That gave the Divas a much more comfortable 26-6 advantage heading into halftime.

Callie Brownson made another huge play as the second half got under way, forcing and then recovering a Columbus fumble to give possession back to the Divas. Hamlin wasted little time finding Baker-Brice for their third touchdown of the game, this one a 16-yard strike that padded the lead to 33-6. Baker-Brice had a breakout game, recording a season-high 124 yards on six catches and three touchdowns.

The defense continued to stifle the Comets offense in the second half. McNair picked off her second pass of the game midway through the third period, and again she lateraled to a teammate as she was about to be brought to the ground. This time, Brownson was the recipient and teamed with McNair for a 22-yard return.

Eleven-year veteran Allyson Hamlin capped off an outstanding offensive show in the fourth quarter by completing a 37-yard touchdown pass to Whisonant for a 40-6 lead. Hamlin finished the game with 17 completions on 24 attempts for 291 yards and four touchdowns passing, plus one rushing touchdown. Columbus added a second touchdown late to cut the final margin to 40-12, but the Divas ran out the clock on a convincing victory.

Offensively, Hamlin and Baker-Brice starred, while the Divas used a running back by committee approach in the absence of Grigsby. Wilkinson led the team with 60 rushing yards, while Stacy Bruce added 47. On the receiving end, Baker-Brice led the team with 124 receiving yards and three touchdowns, while Whisonant added 90 yards and a touchdown on six catches.

The Divas defense registered several big plays. Trigger McNair led the team with 7.5 tackles and two interceptions, while Cherre Marshall added 5.5 tackles.  Missy Bedwell, Allysea Marfull, Eleni Kotsis, and D’Ajah Scott all contributed five tackles each.

With the victory, the Divas advance to the conference semifinals for the ninth time in franchise history. Their next game will be in Boston on July 13, when the Divas face their archrivals, the Boston Militia.

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