Recap vs. Columbus Comets – April 11, 2015

D.C. Divas Begin 15th Season with 40-6 Victory over Columbus
DC 40, Columbus 6
By Neal Rozendaal

Recap • Statistics

Columbus, OH – The D.C. Divas kicked off their historic 15th season in style. A strong first-half effort staked the Divas to an early lead, and they overcame a penalty-plagued second half to topple the Columbus Comets, 40-6.

The Divas’ offense came out of the gates firing on all cylinders. It took the D.C. Divas (1-0) just over two minutes to score their first touchdown of the season. Quarterback Allyson Hamlin threw a ten-yard strike to Ashley Whisonant to give the Divas a quick 7-0 lead.

Defensive back Eleni Kotsis, one of three defensive team captains this season, helped the Divas strike again quickly. Kotsis, who has been named a first-team WFA All-American each of the past two years, picked off a Comets pass and returned it to the Columbus side of the field. That opened the door for Hamlin’s second touchdown pass of the contest, a 14-yard toss to Kentrina Wilson that put the Divas on top, 14-0.

Two fourth-down stops by the D.C. Divas defense gave the visitors control of the game. On their next possession, the Columbus Comets went for it on fourth and seven near midfield, but the Divas stopped a quarterback run for no gain. Divas running back Okiima Pickett, a 2010 IFAF gold medal winner with Team USA, starred on the ensuing offensive drive. Pickett had several strong runs, culminating in a 14-yard scamper to the end zone that gave the Divas a 20-0 lead.

At the end of the first quarter, the Comets faced fourth and two near midfield. Again, Columbus tried to get the first down, and again the Divas defense rose to the occasion, forcing a turnover on downs. Kentrina Wilson then authored perhaps the Divas’ best offensive play of the night, reeling in a Hamlin pass and dodging multiple Columbus defenders on a 57-yard touchdown reception. Wilson’s second score of the contest put the Divas ahead, 27-0, a little over one minute into the second quarter.

The Columbus Comets (0-1) played the contest with heavy hearts. News broke the morning of the game that founding Comets player Chrissy Fowler had passed away in Minnesota. Fowler was recruited to the Comets after a stellar softball career at Ohio State, serving as a team captain for the 2002 Buckeye softball team that advanced to the Sweet Sixteen. Moving into football after college, Chrissy Fowler was elected team captain of the original Comets team in 2003 (when they were known as the Columbus Flames) and earned All-American honors with the Comets in 2004. Fowler later played two seasons with the Chicago Force from 2006-2007. The teams held a moment of silence in her memory prior to kickoff.

The Comets battled the Divas gamely all evening long and struck back late in the first half. The Divas botched a punt attempt, giving the Comets possession deep in D.C. territory at the 13-yard line. The Divas’ defense stopped the Columbus offense on three straight plays to bring up fourth and ten, but Comets wide receiver Angela Basenback broke free for a 13-yard touchdown reception on fourth down to cut the Divas’ advantage to 27-6 with under four minutes to go in the half.

The Divas’ offense immediately responded to the challenge by repeatedly handing the ball to running back Kenyetta Grigsby on the following drive. Grigsby helped drive the Divas down the field, and with the Columbus defense focused on the run, Hamlin threw a five-yard touchdown pass to Whisonant to push the lead back out to 34-6 at halftime. Hamlin threw four touchdown passes in the contest – two to Ashley Whisonant and two to Kentrina Wilson.

The third quarter was highlighted by more outstanding play from the D.C. defense and two outstanding punt returns by D’Ajah Scott. Newcomer Tia Watkins, named a defensive captain in her first year with the team, delivered a crushing block on one of Scott’s punt returns that gave the Divas great field position.

Defensive back Callie Brownson displayed her versatility by trying her hand at running back and helped the Divas capitalize on Scott’s second long punt return. Brownson rushed for a three-yard touchdown late in the third quarter to put the Divas on top, 40-6. Grigsby then barreled into the end zone for an apparent two-point conversion, but the officials ruled that Grigsby’s forward progress had been stopped short of the goal line and waved off the two points, keeping the score at 40-6 after three quarters.

The final period was characterized by penalties and missed opportunities. The Divas had two potential fourth-quarter touchdowns – a 70-yard punt return by Scott and a 100-yard interception return by rookie Quiana Ford – negated by penalties. Despite those miscues, the Divas were able to notch an important division win on the road over a relentless opponent.

The D.C. Divas have now won 99 games in franchise history. They will have a shot next weekend to become the fourth women’s football team with 100 wins when they host the Central Maryland Seahawks in their home opener on April 25.

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