Recap vs. Boston Renegades – June 4, 2016

Divas Complete Eastern Sweep By Rolling Past Renegades, 55-7
DC 55, Boston 7
By Neal Rozendaal

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Landover, MD – In their regular season finale against the Boston Renegades, the D.C. Divas had one final opportunity to audition for the top seed in the Eastern Conference and home field advantage throughout the upcoming playoffs.

With a dominating performance Saturday, it certainly looks like they’ll get the part.

Allyson Hamlin threw five touchdown passes – three of them to Kentrina Wilson – and the D.C. defense completely shut down a short-handed Boston offense as the #2-ranked D.C. Divas rolled over the #5 Boston Renegades, 55-7. The Divas won their seventh straight game against Eastern Conference foes since dropping their season opener to the Western Conference-leading Dallas Elite.

The Divas (7-1) imposed their will early in the game, receiving the opening kickoff and immediately driving down the field for the game’s first score. On fourth and nine from the Boston 33-yard line, Hamlin found Wilson open at the 15-yard line, and Wilson streaked the rest of the way to the end zone. Stephanie Nealis, who was seven for eight on extra point attempts on the evening, had her kick partially blocked for her only miss of the night, which kept the Divas’ lead at 6-0 just over four minutes into the contest.

The Renegades (5-3) then took the ball for their first offensive possession of the evening. In their last game against the Chicago Force, the Renegades lost their star quarterback, Allison Cahill, to an apparent season-ending shoulder injury. Chante Bonds took over at quarterback for Boston, and they had some success on their opening drive. Behind the running of Whitney Zelee, the Renegades advanced to the Divas’ 15-yard line, where they too faced fourth and nine.

The Renegades lined up for a possible field goal attempt, but they ran a fake and rolled out for a possible pass. The D.C. defense wasn’t fooled, however; Helen Deer forced a fumble which was recovered by 18-year veteran linebacker Trigger McNair at the Divas’ 28-yard line.

Running back Kenyetta Grigsby then took over for the Divas, carrying the ball seven times on the ensuing drive for 46 yards. Her final carry of the drive was a one-yard charge into the end zone, at which point she was mobbed by her teammates for achieving a historic milestone. Grigsby’s touchdown was her 100th since joining the Divas back in 2010, and she became the first player in D.C. Divas history to score 100 touchdowns with the team. Grigsby finished the game with 95 yards on 13 carries and one touchdown, and her historic run gave the Divas a 13-0 lead with just over four minutes remaining in the first quarter.

A huge special teams play put the Divas in full control of the game minutes later. The Renegades were forced to punt on their next drive, and wide receiver Ashley Whisonant returned the kick 78 yards for an electrifying touchdown. Whisonant’s punt return put the Divas ahead, 20-0, after one quarter of play.

A sack by Kira Robinson as the first quarter expired gave the Divas possession near midfield when the second period began. Whisonant visited the end zone for the second time in less than five minutes, this time on a seven-yard pass from Hamlin, to hand the Divas a 27-0 advantage early in the second quarter.

Late in the first half, the Divas got things rolling again. Once again, it was Kentrina Wilson doing the damage on a 21-yard touchdown reception with under a minute to play before halftime. Wilson’s second touchdown grab of the first half gave the Divas a stunning 34-0 lead at intermission.

In a halftime ceremony, the D.C. Divas inducted their second class into the D.C. Divas Hall of Fame. Three outstanding former players – running back Rachelle Pecovsky, linebacker Ivy Tillman, and fullback Claudia Hogan – joined the Divas’ late trainer, Nate “Daddy Nat” Randolph, as members of the D.C. Divas Hall of Fame Class of 2016.

In the third quarter, the D.C. defense made it clear that their 34-point lead would be enough, stopping the Boston offense on its first two drives of the second half. Tia Watkins led the D.C. defense with nine tackles, a tackle for loss, a sack, and three tipped passes.  Eleni Kotsis added seven tackles, and rookie C’Vette Henson continued her outstanding rookie season with 4.5 tackles and a sack.

The Divas’ offense, meanwhile, added to their lead late in the third quarter. Wilson caught her third touchdown pass from Hamlin, a 22-yard scoring toss that handed the Divas a 41-0 lead. Wilson ended the game with five catches for 93 yards and three touchdowns.

The Boston Renegades then responded with their only scoring drive of the game. A 30-yard pass to Kathryn Tylander put Boston in scoring position, and two consecutive Divas penalties in the red zone gave the Renegades first and goal from the four-yard line. Chante Bonds got the Renegades on the scoreboard with a four-yard touchdown run, and the extra point kick made the score 41-7 after three quarters.

The D.C. Divas came into the game in a tight battle with the Chicago Force in the Massey statistical ratings for the #1 seed in the Eastern Conference, despite the Divas’ head-to-head win over Chicago earlier this season. Because Chicago dismantled Boston two weeks ago, 58-14, the Divas had no choice but to continue to play out the fourth quarter and try to match Chicago’s margin of victory.

Hamlin threw her fifth touchdown of the game on the first play of the fourth quarter, a five-yard toss to Callie Brownson that put the Divas on top, 48-7. On the Divas’ next drive, Hamlin took it in herself from one yard out on a quarterback sneak to make the margin 55-7 with just under ten minutes to play.

The D.C. Divas cruised from there and came away with a 55-7 victory over the Boston Renegades. It was the most lopsided outcome in the 25 all-time meetings between the Divas and Renegades or their predecessors, the Boston Militia and Massachusetts Mutiny. The final margin surpassed a 44-7 defeat the Divas took at the hands of the Militia on May 19, 2012.

With the victory, the D.C. Divas clinched a first-round bye in the upcoming Women’s Football Alliance (WFA) playoffs. The Divas will host a conference semifinal game on June 25 against the winner of a conference quarterfinal game between the Pittsburgh Passion and the Atlanta Phoenix.

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