Recap vs. Atlanta Phoenix – April 30, 2016

Four Is Fantastic For Divas in 52-7 Win Over Atlanta
DC 52, Atlanta 7
By Neal Rozendaal

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Landover, MD – A popular saying posits that good things come in threes. On Saturday, the D.C. Divas demonstrated that good things sometimes come in fours, too.

Running back Kenyetta Grigsby rushed for four touchdowns, and linebacker Safi Mojidi set a franchise record with four takeaways as the D.C. Divas defeated the Atlanta Phoenix, 52-7.

The Divas (3-1) struck quickly. On their second offensive play of the game, quarterback Allyson Hamlin threw a 64-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Ashley Whisonant. Stephanie Nealis, who was a perfect seven for seven on the day in extra point attempts, booted the PAT for a 7-0 Divas lead just 62 seconds into the game.

The Divas continued their hot start. The Phoenix (3-2) went three and out on their first possession, and the D.C. offense went right back to work. Grigsby scored her first touchdown of the game, a 13-yard scamper to the end zone to put the Divas on top, 14-0, with 11:09 left in the first quarter.

Grigsby was just getting warmed up. After another Atlanta punt, she finished off the Divas’ third offensive drive with the team’s third touchdown on a two-yard scoring run. The Divas seized a 21-0 advantage with 7:40 remaining in the first period.

The Divas had racked up three touchdowns in the first half of the first quarter, but the rest of the opening quarter belonged to Atlanta. The Phoenix assembled their best drive of the game, converting two fourth downs to maintain possession and burning over seven and a half minutes off the clock. Atlanta faced second and goal from the D.C. three-yard line as the first quarter came to a close.

On the first play of the second quarter, the Phoenix cut into the Divas’ lead with a touchdown run. Atlanta’s extra point kick attempt hit the crossbar and bounced over, and the Phoenix pulled within 21-7 six seconds into the second quarter.

The Divas responded and pushed the lead back out to 21 points, and again, it was Grigsby doing the honors by rushing for her third touchdown of the first half. Grigsby’s four-yard touchdown rush extended the lead back out to 28-7 with 8:17 left in the first half.

Safi Mojidi began her march into the D.C. Divas record book late in the first half with two outstanding plays. The Atlanta Phoenix were forced to punt on their next possession, and Kianna Murphy broke through to block the kick. Mojidi fell on the loose ball for the Divas for her first turnover of the game.

Hamlin threw an interception on the next possession at the Atlanta 24-yard line, the Divas’ only first half drive that failed to end in a touchdown. But Mojidi got the ball right back for the Divas, as Whitney Simms popped the ball free on a tackle and Mojidi corralled the loose ball again to put the Divas right back in business.

The persistence of the Divas offense paid dividends at the end of the first half. The Divas were seemingly demoralized when a 58-yard touchdown pass from Hamlin to Whisonant was wiped away by a holding penalty with 23 seconds remaining in the half. Still, the Divas refused to take a knee, and the offense advanced the ball down to the 24-yard line with seven seconds left before halftime.

Two weeks ago in Boston, the Divas were victimized by a touchdown as time expired in the first half. Against Atlanta, D.C. turned the tables. Hamlin connected with Whisonant in the end zone for the second time on the drive, and this time, the score stood. A 24-yard touchdown with no time left in the half put the Divas on top at intermission, 35-7. Whisonant would finish the game with eight catches for 164 yards and two touchdowns; fellow wideout Kentrina Wilson added 83 receiving yards on six catches of her own.

The Divas kept their positive momentum going in the second half. The Phoenix went three and out on their first possession of the third quarter, and the Divas’ offense picked up right where it left off. D.C. scored a touchdown for the sixth time in seven drives, with Grigsby carrying it in from one yard out for a 42-7 lead with 7:46 remaining in the third quarter.

That was the final drive of the game for both Hamlin and Grigsby, who left the contest after two and a half quarters. Through the air, quarterback Allyson Hamlin completed 19 of her 27 pass attempts for 261 yards, with two touchdowns and one interception. On the ground, running back Kenyetta Grigsby gained 78 yards on 14 carries with four touchdowns on the day.

With several reserves in the game, the Divas added to their lead on the final play of the third quarter. Stephanie Nealis easily drilled a 28-yard field goal to increase the Divas’ lead to 45-7 after three quarters. Nealis accounted for ten points on the evening, with seven converted extra point kicks added to her first made field goal of the season.

The fourth quarter was highlighted by the Divas’ defense, which – outside of Atlanta’s one long drive in the first half – played spectacularly all evening. Tia Watkins led the Divas with eight tackles, while Cherre Marshall added 6.5 tackles. Newcomer C’Vette Henson continued to impress, chipping in five tackles, and Helen Deer recorded four.

But the defensive spotlight belonged to Safi Mojidi, who intercepted two passes on consecutive Atlanta drives in the fourth quarter. With her two interceptions and two fumble recoveries, Mojidi became the first player in the 16-year history of the D.C. Divas to recover four turnovers in a single game.

Mojidi’s second interception gave the Divas possession of the ball at Atlanta’s 15-yard line, and Okiima Pickett capped off the scoring for the evening with a five-yard run to the end zone. Pickett finished the game with ten carries for 51 yards and a touchdown; her scoring run with 2:25 remaining in the fourth quarter put the final touch on the Divas’ impressive 52-7 victory over the Atlanta Phoenix.

With the win over Atlanta, the D.C. Divas – the defending national champions who are currently ranked #3 in women’s football – improved their all-time franchise record to 113-36 in 16 seasons of play. The Divas will play their 150th game in franchise history this Saturday, when they travel to the Windy City for an epic showdown with the #1-ranked Chicago Force in a rematch of last season’s Eastern Conference championship game.

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