Recap vs. Atlanta Phoenix – June 3, 2017

D.C. Divas Enter Playoffs on a High Note, Beat Atlanta, 34-0
DC 34, Atlanta 0
By Neal Rozendaal

Atlanta, GA – The 2017 D.C. Divas have followed three straight defeats with three straight victories. Now the quest for three straight national championships officially begins.

Wide receiver Kentrina Wilson caught three touchdown passes, the defense pitched a shutout for the 57th time in franchise history, and the D.C. Divas finished off the 2017 regular season with a 34-0 victory over the Atlanta Phoenix. The Divas clinched their 15th winning season in the last 16 years, setting a record for the most winning seasons by any team in women’s football history.

The Divas (5-3) took advantage of a pair of early turnovers to dent the scoreboard first. Eleni Kotsis picked off a Phoenix pass on Atlanta’s first possession and returned it into Atlanta territory. Although the Divas turned the ball over on downs a few plays later, Safi Mojidi got in the act by immediately recovering an Atlanta fumble. Mojidi returned the fumble into the end zone for an apparent touchdown, but a penalty brought the ball back out to the Phoenix 25-yard line.

The Divas’ offense quickly got that touchdown back. On fourth and 15, quarterback Amanda Congialdi passed to Wilson for a 30-yard score, and the Divas had an early lead, 7-0.

The Phoenix (6-2) made several excellent kickoff returns that set them up with good field position to start their drives. Ronkia Toombs returned the ensuing kickoff to the D.C. 42-yard line and then broke free for several big runs to get the ball down to the D.C. 12. But the Divas’ defense rose to the occasion, recording a three-yard tackle for loss and then stuffing a fourth-down run for no gain to regain possession at the Divas’ 15-yard line.

The Divas embarked on a long drive down the field for their second score, once again cashing in on fourth and long. Facing fourth and 14 from Atlanta’s 37-yard line, Congialdi hooked up with Wilson for another touchdown pass, their second of the game. Wilson’s catch finished off an 85-yard drive and put the Divas in front, 14-0, with just over a minute remaining in the first quarter.

Linebacker Kira Robinson closed out the first quarter for the Divas with a great defensive play, sacking the Atlanta quarterback to bring up third and 19 to start the second quarter. The Divas led Atlanta after one period, 14-0.

The first quarter intermission would be a lengthy one, as a nearby lightning strike caused the game to undergo a 30-minute weather delay. The delay did not slow the D.C. defense, however; when play resumed, the Divas stopped an Atlanta run for no gain on fourth down to take over on downs at the Divas’ 43-yard line.

Divas wide receiver Shaquanda Gainey had a long run into Atlanta territory, which set up more heroics from Wilson. Kentrina Wilson caught her third touchdown pass of the first half, this time a 42-yard scoring reception from Congialdi. Kicker Stephanie Nealis converted her third extra point kick, and the Divas seized a commanding 21-0 advantage.

The Divas then recovered the ensuing kickoff and actually threatened to take an even bigger lead, advancing all the way to the Atlanta red zone. The Phoenix defense stymied the drive with a big sack, however, and the Divas committed their first turnover of the game with an interception at the Atlanta 21-yard line.

Both defenses dug in at this point, and neither team was able to generate any offense for the rest of the first half. The Divas eventually took a knee and ran out the clock to go to halftime with a 21-0 lead.

The Atlanta Phoenix came out in the third quarter with one of their best offensive drives of the game. Atlanta executed a risky pass that was nearly intercepted, but it led to a big gain as the receiver rumbled all the way down to the D.C. 12-yard line. With the opposition in their red zone for just the second time in the game, the Divas’ defense stood tall again, pushing the Phoenix back four yards in four plays for a turnover on downs.

D’Ajah Scott starred for the Divas on their first drive of the second half. She took a short swing pass and ran 32 yards to put the ball near midfield, and a short time later, she broke to the sideline for a 39-yard touchdown run to put the Divas ahead, 28-0.

With a decisive lead and the playoffs looming, the Divas benched a number of their offensive starters early in the second half. The game turned into a defensive slugfest as the Divas’ defense held strong against the Phoenix offense but the Divas’ second-string offense struggled to move the ball against the Atlanta defense.

The Divas’ defense forced two more turnovers on downs in the third quarter, both of them on the Divas’ side of the field. The offense struggled, however, with a fumble and a three and out, and the Divas went to the fourth quarter leading the Phoenix, 28-0.

The offensive highlight of the fourth quarter came when Divas running back Christiana Burton broke free for a 22-yard gain to the Atlanta 19-yard line; it was the only non-penalty first down of the fourth quarter by either team. Penalties eventually stalled the drive and forced the Divas to punt to the Atlanta 26-yard line.

Late in the game, the Atlanta quarterback dropped back to pass, and it was intercepted by Divas defensive back Dana Blakey. Blakey returned the interception 34 yards for a defensive touchdown, and an Atlanta player was injured on a late crack-back block by a Divas defender. The game was called at that point, and the D.C. Divas left Atlanta with a 34-0 victory over the Atlanta Phoenix.

With the win, the Divas secured the #4 seed in the Eastern Conference for the 2017 Women’s Football Alliance (WFA) playoffs. The Divas will host the fifth-seeded Cleveland Fusion on June 10 in a conference quarterfinal game.

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