Recap vs. Boston Renegades – May 6, 2017

D.C. Divas Blanked at Boston Again, 26-0
Boston 26, DC 0
By Neal Rozendaal

Boston, MA – Seven years ago, the D.C. Divas were shut out in Boston in the 2010 Eastern Conference championship game, 28-0. The Divas had scored in every game since, but on Saturday, their archrivals from Boston had their number once again.

The Boston Renegades finally broke through against a tenacious but injured Divas defense, and the D.C. offense never found its rhythm in a 26-0 loss to the Renegades. The Divas fought valiantly as they closed out a brutal three-week stretch against top Eastern Conference contenders, but they eventually lost a war of attrition and suffered just their second shutout loss in the last 15 years.

The Divas (2-3) actually outplayed the Renegades in a scoreless first half, driving into Boston territory on five separate possessions. The Divas received the opening kickoff, and after an initial exchange of punts, the D.C. offense made the first scoring threat of the game. A 38-yard pass from quarterback Amanda Congialdi to wide receiver D’Ajah Scott gave the Divas possession in Boston territory, and even through the drive stalled, a great punt by Emily Grossman pinned the Renegades at their own 10-yard line.

The Renegades (4-0) were then forced to punt to midfield, and the Divas drove deep into Boston territory again. The offense advanced the ball into the Boston red zone as a quick first quarter came to a close. But the Renegades defense stiffened, and the Divas threw incomplete on fourth down at the 15-yard line to give possession back to Boston.

The Boston Renegades then fired up their offense, with quarterback Allison Cahill finding wide receiver Adrienne Smith on two long passes as Boston drove into D.C. territory for the only time in the first half. The Divas defense responded, as a big sack by Dex Walker slowed Boston’s momentum. Although the officials gave the hometown Renegades renewed life and a first down with a questionable pass interference call on third and 20, Cahill threw an incomplete pass on fourth and long to turn the ball over on downs at the 19-yard line.

The Divas offense responded with perhaps their best drive of the game, chewing up over 60 yards and driving into the Boston red zone for the second straight possession. A Congialdi pass to Callie Brownson for 39 yards pushed the Divas past midfield, and Congialdi then found wide receiver Kentrina Wilson for a ten-yard completion on fourth and seven to give the Divas a first down at the Boston 19-yard line with just over three minutes to play in the first half.

But after a two-yard gain, the officials in Boston gave the home team another boost, flagging the Divas with back-to-back ten-yard penalties to make it second and 28. The Divas offense stalled at that point and was forced to punt to the Boston 20-yard line with a minute and a half left in the first half.

Timeless veteran linebacker Trigger McNair, playing in her 19th season of women’s football, continued to show why she is not only one of the Divas’ defensive leaders but still one of the best defensive players in all of women’s football. McNair recovered two turnovers in the span of a little over a minute to give the Divas two chances to crack the scoreboard late in the first half.

McNair picked off a Cahill pass with 1:03 left in the second quarter, but the Divas went three and out on offense and were forced to punt with 19 seconds remaining. Cahill fired a pass to Smith, and in a desperation attempt to score, Smith tried to lateral to a teammate following the reception. McNair claimed her second turnover of the game, recovering the fumbled lateral at the Boston 45-yard line with two seconds remaining before intermission.

With a chance for one more play, Congialdi fired down the field for Brownson at the 20-yard line. Brownson appeared to draw a pass interference penalty on the play, but the referees overlooked the contact and the teams headed to halftime with a 0-0 score. It was the first time that the D.C. Divas had played a scoreless first half since May 16, 2009, when the Divas defeated the New York Sharks, 21-7.

The second-half result would not be as positive for the Divas in this contest, however. Games in the D.C.-Boston rivalry have historically been some of the most physical games in all of women’s football. Even in a series known for brutal play, the second half of this contest will go down as one of the most taxing in Divas history.

In the final game of a stretch in which the Divas hosted Boston and the Chicago Force followed by a road contest at Boston in the span of three weeks, the Divas fell apart physically in the second half. On no fewer than a dozen occasions in the second half, play had to be stopped to help an injured Diva off the field, and by the end of the game, fewer than half of the Divas’ regular defensive starters were still able to answer the call.

The Boston Renegades, currently the nation’s top-ranked team, took full advantage. The Renegades received the second-half kickoff and immediately drove down the field for a touchdown. Whitney Zelee ran into the end zone from one yard out, and although the two-point conversion pass fell incomplete, the Renegades had a 6-0 lead early in the third quarter.

The Divas’ offense gave Boston great field position on their next two possessions, thanks to an interception and a bad snap on a punt attempt. But on two occasions, the Divas defense stood tall and forced a turnover on downs in D.C. territory.

Late in the third quarter, however, the Divas went three and out and got off a very short punt, which allowed Boston to take over deep in D.C. territory once again. Stacey Tiamfook rushed for a second Boston touchdown late in the third quarter, and while Boston was tackled short of the end zone on a two-point conversion run, the Renegades had a 12-0 advantage after three quarters.

The Divas got off a great punt to the Boston 37-yard line on the first play of the fourth quarter, and with advantageous field position for the first time in the second half, the D.C. defense stopped Boston’s offense again. The Divas forced a Boston punt, and the Divas took over at their own 37-yard line early in the fourth quarter, still trailing, 12-0.

Despite the lack of offensive firepower, the Divas were still in the game early in the fourth quarter. Congialdi fired off a deep pass for Kentrina Wilson, who hauled it in and gained over fifty yards on the play, setting the Divas up for a possible comeback. But as she was maneuvering for more yardage, Boston forced a fumble and returned it to their own 45-yard line.

The Divas’ second turnover of the game demoralized the visitors’ sideline. On the very next play, Zelee raced 55 yards for a game-clinching score, and with a two-point conversion run, the Renegades had secured an insurmountable 20-0 lead with 12:17 remaining in the game.

The only suspense remaining in the game at this point is whether the Divas would score any points at all. Starting at midfield, the Divas put together a long march toward the Boston goal line. But on fourth and long from the 18-yard line, a Congialdi pass into the end zone was dropped to give Boston possession with under ten minutes to play.

The Renegades chewed up over five minutes of clock as they drove the ball against the weakened Divas defense. With 4:40 remaining in the game, Boston’s Angelica Pascual polished off an 82-yard drive with an 11-yard run into the end zone. The two-point rushing attempt was again stopped, but Boston extended their lead to 26-0.

The Divas had one final shot to crack the scoreboard, and Congialdi completed a pass to Callie Brownson at the Boston 22-yard line for a first down to give the Divas hope of a possible end to the shutout. But as was the case all night, the Divas offense was unable to finish off a promising drive, turning the ball over on downs with just over two minutes remaining in the game.

The Renegades ran out the clock on a 26-0 victory. It was just the second time the Divas had been shut out since June 22, 2002, against the Baltimore Burn. The Divas’ only other shutout loss in the last 15 years was another road game in Boston, when D.C. fell in the 2010 Eastern Conference championship game to the Boston Militia, 28-0.

The D.C. Divas will enjoy a well-deserved bye week before returning home for their first ever meeting against the Carolina Phoenix on May 20.

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