Recap vs. Boston Renegades – April 14, 2018

Divas Suffer Another Comeback Loss In Boston, Fall to Renegades, 21-14
Boston 21, DC 14
By Neal Rozendaal

Boston, MA – When the D.C. Divas received their 2018 season schedule, they saw that their 18th season would begin in the exact same spot their last one ended. Last year, the Divas lost a two-score lead in Boston and fell to their archrivals, the Boston Renegades, in a playoff loss that ended their 2017 season. The Divas embraced the challenge of atoning for that loss to start the 2018 campaign.

Instead, they saw history repeat itself.

The Boston Renegades rallied from a 14-0 deficit in the second quarter, and the D.C. Divas suffered a gut-wrenching defeat on the road against their archrivals by a 21-14 count.

The Divas (0-1) got off to a flying start. They chose to receive the opening kickoff, and Boston tried to surprise the Divas with an onside kick to start the contest. But the Divas recovered the kick at the Renegades’ 45-yard line, and they began the game with great field position.

Facing third and eight from the Boston 31, Divas quarterback Amanda Congialdi tossed a 31-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Kentrina Wilson, who tiptoed along the sidelines and stayed in bounds just long enough to register the first score of the year. Stephanie Nealis kicked the extra point, and with 11:20 remaining in the first quarter, the Divas were already ahead, 7-0.

The Renegades (2-0) then had their first drive on offense and immediately benefitted from their famous home field advantage. Boston advanced into Divas territory, but the drive stalled out and brought up fourth and five from the Divas’ 27-yard line. The Renegades decided to go for it, and Boston quarterback Allison Cahill fired a pass toward her star wide receiver, Emily Beinecke.

Beinecke elevated for the pass, got her hands on the ball, and then clearly dropped it as she hit the ground, with the ball rolling several feet away from her. As the Divas’ defense began to leave the field, the officials conferred and credited Beinecke with a catch and a first down at the Divas’ 17-yard line.

The Boston offense was unable to cash in, however. Three straight runs brought up fourth and three at the D.C. 10-yard line, and Cahill’s pass to the end zone fell incomplete, leading to a turnover on downs deep in Divas territory.

D’Ajah Scott made her first big impact on the game for the Divas as time wound down in the first quarter. She ran for eight yards to start the drive, then on third and two, she hauled in an eight-yard pass from Congialdi at the 26-yard line for a first down. A few plays later, facing third and three from the 33, Scott made a spectacular run, breaking two tackles and advancing the ball to the 41-yard line for an apparent first down. But the officials flagged the Divas for holding and marched the Divas back ten yards.

The Divas were able to overcome, however. On the final play of the first quarter, Kentrina Wilson made a spectacular grab on third and 13 for a first down at the 38-yard line. After one period, the Divas led Boston on the road, 7-0.

Okiima Trotter opened the second quarter with a five-yard run, then Scott carried the ball for a first down into Boston territory at the 49-yard line. The next two plays lost one yard, but on third and 11, Congialdi lofted a pass deep down the field to Kentrina Wilson. Wilson caught the ball, shook off a would-be tackler, and raced to the end zone for a 50-yard score. The extra point kick was good, and the Divas had a 14-0 lead with 12:22 left in the second quarter.

But the Boston rally would begin in earnest on the next drive. It started with the Divas kicking the ball out of bounds, giving the Renegades the ball at their own 40 yard line. Two plays later, Cahill found Beinecke behind the Divas defense for a momentum-shifting 60-yard touchdown strike. The extra point kick was no good, but the Renegades had cut the deficit to 14-6 with 12:07 left in the second quarter.

The Divas threatened to add more points to the scoreboard on their third offensive drive of the game. Boston’s onside kick attempt went out of bounds, giving the Divas possession on the Renegades’ side of midfield. Congialdi swung a pass to Tia Watkins, who had lined up at fullback on the play, and Watkins ran 22 yards down to the Boston 25. Two runs by Scott and a catch by Wilson netted 11 more yards, and the Divas had a first down in the Boston red zone at the 14-yard line.

But the drive stalled out there. The Divas gained only two yards on the next three plays, and on fourth and eight, a 29-yard field goal attempt by Nealis came up short of the crossbar with 7:11 remaining in the first half.

The rest of the second period would be filled with similar missed opportunities for the Divas. On the very next play, Cahill threw a pass deep that was intercepted by Divas defensive back Eleni Kotsis at the Boston 37. But the Divas’ offense was unable to capitalize; two incomplete passes, a completed pass for no gain, and a false start penalty forced a punt on fourth and 15 at the Boston 22-yard line.

The Renegades were able to drive the ball out to midfield on their next drive, thanks to two third-down receptions by Stephanie Pascual and Emily Beinecke. But Kianna Murphy then made a huge play for the Divas, forcing Cahill to fumble the ball after she dropped back to pass, and Natalie Gaston recovered for the Divas at the Boston 48-yard line.

The notoriously disciplined Renegades had given the Divas two uncharacteristic turnovers on consecutive drives, but again, the Divas were unable to take advantage. After Lois Cook reeled in a pass for a first down at the 29-yard line, two incomplete passes, a two-yard scramble by Congialdi, and another false start penalty brought up fourth and 13 and forced yet another punt.

With under a minute to go in the first half, the Renegades threw three incomplete passes and punted to midfield with six seconds remaining in the first half. An incomplete pass by the Divas saw the clock strike zero, and the D.C. Divas led the Boston Renegades at halftime, 14-6.

Those missed opportunities would come back to haunt the Divas in the second half. The Renegades took the opening kickoff to start the third quarter and immediately threatened to tie the game, returning the kick to midfield. After one first down, the Renegades faced fourth and five from the Divas’ 35-yard line. Boston elected to go for it, and Cahill completed a pass to Chante Bonds, who made a terrific catch along the sidelines at the 17-yard line for a first down.

The D.C. defense stiffened in the red zone, however. Three straight runs by Angelica Pascual picked up seven yards for a fourth and three at the ten-yard line. On fourth down, Pascual got the ball again, but the Divas stuffed her for a one-yard gain and a turnover on downs at the D.C. nine-yard line.

The Divas drove the ball out of immediate danger by picking up two first downs. Wilson, who would end the day with 130 yards on seven receptions and two touchdowns, caught an eight-yard pass on third and one to give the Divas new life at their own 36-yard line. But after losing a yard on the next three plays, the Divas were forced to punt to the Boston 35.

The Cahill-to-Beinecke connection got the Renegades going on their next drive. On third and 10, Cahill hit Beinecke for a 35-yard strike down to the Divas’ 30-yard line. Two rushing attempts gained nothing on the next two plays, and the Renegades quickly faced third and 10 again.

This time, Cahill was flushed from the pocket and scrambled toward the first down marker. A Divas defender gave chase and appeared to push her out of bounds at the 21-yard line, a yard short of the marker to bring up fourth and one from the 21. But the official awarded Boston the first down and also flagged the Divas for a late hit, giving the Renegades a first and goal at the ten-yard line.

The D.C. defense made a valiant stand, but on fourth and goal, Angelica Pascual pushed ahead for a two-yard touchdown run. The Renegades went for the two-point conversion, and Cahill ran the ball over the goal line to tie the game, 14-14, with just under two minutes left in the third quarter.

Boston then seized upon the momentum with the most controversial play of the game. The Renegades huddled up prior to the kickoff, five yards behind the ball on the tee. Without getting set and despite being in an obviously illegal formation with all 11 players huddled together, the Renegades charged at the ball in a pack without warning and kicked a surprise onside kick, recovering the ball at midfield. The officials granted the Renegades possession of the ball without assessing a penalty on the play, and the Boston offense was back in business.

Emily Beinecke and Angelica Pascual both made big plays to end the third quarter, and the Renegades had advanced to the Divas’ ten-yard line as the players changed ends of the field. At the end of the third quarter, the game was deadlocked, 14-14.

The contest didn’t remain tied for long. On third and five from the ten-yard line, Cahill tossed a ten-yard touchdown pass to Beinecke for Boston’s first lead of the game. With 14:28 left in the game, the Renegades pulled ahead, 21-14.

The Divas tried an immediate response, but they were once again stymied in their efforts. Shaquanda Gainey fielded the ensuing kickoff for the Divas and made a spectacular return all the way to the Boston 24-yard line. But a penalty brought the ball all the way back to the Divas’ end of the field at their own 45-yard line.

The D.C. offense had lost all momentum by this point. A sack, two incomplete passes, and a punt that lost yardage gave the Renegades the ball at the D.C. 31-yard line.

But the Divas’ defense rose to the occasion, forcing a four and out. On fourth and one, the Renegades tried a trick play with Cahill setting the ball on the ground for one of her running backs to pick up. But Cahill’s knee hit the ground as she was laying the ball down, and the Divas took over on downs at their own 26-yard line.

With time running down in the fourth quarter, the Divas tried to engineer a furious rally to tie the game. Kentrina Wilson made several starring plays on the drive. She drew a pass interference penalty for a first down at the D.C. 44, caught a nine-yard pass on third and five for a first down at the Boston 42, and then caught an 11-yard pass on fourth and nine for a first down at the Boston 30.

Shelly Freeman chipped in next with a 13-yard run for a first down at the Renegades’ 17-yard line. After a false start by the Divas, Freeman then ripped off a seven-yard run to bring up second and eight at the Boston 15. Freeman led the Divas on the ground with 41 yards on seven carries. But the Divas would get no closer; three straight incomplete passes led to a turnover on downs 15 yards away from a game-tying score.

The Boston Renegades ran out the clock and held on to a 21-14 victory over the D.C. Divas. The D.C. offense scored on their first two possessions of the game but were shut out the rest of the way as the Renegades rallied for the victory. The Divas will host the Renegades in a rematch on May 19, but in the meantime, the Divas will try to get their first win of the year this Saturday when they host the Philadelphia Phantomz in their 2018 home opener.