Recap vs. Boston Renegades – May 19, 2018

D.C. Divas Stage Epic Rally to Topple Rival Renegades, 40-35
DC 40, Boston 35
By Neal Rozendaal

Landover, MD – In their illustrious 18-year history, the D.C. Divas had never trailed by more than 14 points in a game and come back to win.

That all changed Saturday, and it threw a monkey wrench into the Eastern Conference playoff race in the Women’s Football Alliance (WFA).

The D.C. Divas rallied from a 22-point deficit late in the first half and scored four touchdowns after halftime to stun the Boston Renegades, 40-35. The Divas turned the tables on Boston with the win, paying them back for close, heartbreaking losses in three of their last four meetings with their archrivals.

The Divas (3-2) got off to a disastrous start, trailing by a 21-0 score before the offense had picked up a single first down. The Divas received the opening kickoff and immediately went three and out, punting to the Boston 30-yard line.

The Renegades (4-2) responded with a methodical, 14-play scoring drive that covered seventy yards. The key play on the drive was a pass by Renegades quarterback Allison Cahill to wide receiver Emily Beinecke for a first down on fourth and two at the Divas’ 23-yard line. After keeping the drive alive, Cahill scored three plays later on a five-yard quarterback run, and the Renegades led, 7-0, midway through the first quarter.

The Divas’ offense gained just one yard in three plays on their next drive and was forced to punt again, this time to the Boston 12-yard line. Using their trademark hurry-up offense, the Renegades rapidly ran 13 plays that covered 88 yards for a second touchdown. The 13th and final play of the drive was the first play of the second quarter, and it resulted in a five-yard touchdown run for Boston running back Angelica Pascual. With seven seconds gone in the second quarter, the Divas trailed, 14-0.

Seizing on the momentum, the Renegades executed a perfectly placed onside kick that they recovered all the way down at the Divas’ 40-yard line. The Renegades picked up four yards in three plays and faced fourth and six from the Divas’ 36-yard line. Cahill drew the weary Divas defense offside with a strong hard count, and with the benefit of the free play, she threw the ball down the field where the receiver drew a holding call. The holding penalty resulted in an automatic first down, and the Boston offense was on the move once again.

Three plays later, Cahill threw her first touchdown pass of the day, an eight-yard strike to Stephanie Pascual. With 12:45 remaining in the first half, the Boston Renegades held a commanding 21-0 lead over the D.C. Divas.

The Divas barely escaped another disaster when the Divas’ Whitney Simms narrowly beat a Renegade receiver to the ball and recovered Boston’s second straight onside kick attempt. Simms’ recovery at midfield, however, set the Divas up with great field position for a key drive in the game.

The Divas’ offense desperately needed something positive, so they turned to their prolific wide receiver, Kentrina Wilson. Wilson drew a Boston penalty to give the Divas their first first down of the game. Then on fourth and five from the Boston 33-yard line, Wilson hauled in a nine-yard pass from quarterback Amanda Congialdi to keep the D.C. drive alive.

The Divas finally cracked the scoreboard two plays later when Congialdi hit Wilson for a 19-yard touchdown pass. The extra point attempt from Stephanie Nealis hit the upright and bounced back, but the Divas had their first points of the game and trailed 21-6 with 9:09 left before halftime.

The Renegades’ offense maintained their red-hot play. Although only one play on their first four drives covered more than 12 yards, the Renegades continued to slowly chip away at the Divas’ defense. Taking advantage of consistent short gains and a very quick tempo, Boston ground out first downs and ultimately touchdowns. Angelica Pascual scored her second touchdown of the first half on a three-yard run, and the Divas faced their largest deficit, 28-6, with just over six minutes remaining until intermission.

Amanda Congialdi gave the Divas a lift on their next drive. Facing third and nine at midfield, Congialdi took off on a quarterback draw and gained ten yards for a Divas first down. On the next play, she threw a 40-yard strike to Wilson for their second touchdown connection of the day, and then she promptly found Wilson again on a successful two-point conversion pass. With 4:47 left in the second quarter, the Divas were back to within 28-14. Kentrina Wilson ended the game with eight catches for 120 yards and two touchdowns.

The D.C. defense then made their first stop of the game, forcing a Boston punt to the D.C. 42-yard line with 2:20 left before halftime. The Divas put together a nice drive to the Boston 32-yard line, but an incomplete pass on fourth down and four gave the Renegades the ball back with 1:24 left on the clock.

Led by Cahill, the Renegades’ offense made one last impressive drive down the field. Boston drew a pass interference call in the end zone to set up first and goal from the two-yard line with under twenty seconds to play, but faced with the prospect of a three-touchdown deficit, the Divas defense made a desperately needed stand.

Angelica Pascual had two near-touchdowns wiped out in the final seconds of the half. She took the handoff for an apparent two-yard touchdown run, but the score was called off by an illegal shift by the Renegades. On first and goal from the seven-yard line, Pascual was hit by a pair of Divas for a three-yard loss, and the Renegades called timeout with seven seconds remaining in the half, enough time for one final play.

Eschewing a possible field goal, the Renegades decided to go for it from the ten-yard line. Cahill swung a pass to the sideline for Angelica Pascual. Pascual sprinted toward the goal line, while Divas linebacker Trigger McNair – in her 20th season of women’s football – raced to push Pascual out of bounds before she reached the pylon. Pascual stepped out of bounds on her final step before reaching the ball over the goal line, and she was marked out of bounds a foot short of the end zone as time expired in the first half. McNair’s touchdown-saving play kept the Divas trailing by only two touchdowns at the halftime break, 28-14.

The Renegades received the ball to start the third quarter and immediately threatened the Divas’ goal line again. Boston picked up a first down at the D.C. 14-yard line, but following a four-yard run by Cahill, three incomplete passes gave the Divas the ball back on downs at their own ten-yard line.

The Divas’ offense advanced the ball out to Boston’s 28-yard line and soon threatened for more. Congialdi made a spectacular 34-yard run to the Boston 38-yard line, but in their celebration, the Divas’ bench was flagged for sideline interference; although the penalty had no impact on the play itself, it caused the down to be replayed and therefore wiped out the entire gain and brought the ball back to the 28-yard line. The Divas were then forced to punt, and the ball ironically landed dead at the Boston 38-yard line, the exact yard line where Congialdi was brought down on her negated run.

The D.C. defense had their first dominant series of the game, stuffing the Renegades on four plays and giving the ball back to the Divas on downs at the Boston 43-yard line. Trigger McNair had 14 combined tackles in the game, while Safi Mojidi, in her first game action this season, had nine. Tia Watkins and Miteka Trueheart each had seven combined tackles for the Divas defense.

The Divas were not able to capitalize on their good field position, however. The D.C. offense lost three yards in three plays and decided to go for it on fourth and 13. Under pressure from the Renegade defenders, Congialdi took a chance on fourth down and lobbed a pass down the field that was intercepted by Boston’s Chante Bonds at the Boston 30-yard line.

But the Divas’ defense had turned a corner and cooled off Boston’s offense for the second series in a row. The Renegades went three and out on their next drive and were forced to punt the ball to the Divas’ 23-yard line.

The Divas were still trailing by two touchdowns at this point, but D’Ajah Scott changed all of that on one play. Scott took the handoff from Congialdi, was sprung by a block from fullback Okiima Trotter, juked a Boston defender, and used the downfield blocking of her wide receivers to outrace the Renegade defenders to the end zone on a terrific 77-yard touchdown run. Just like that, the Divas had cut their deficit in half, 28-21, with 6:20 left in the third quarter.

Momentum in the game had now swung to the D.C. sideline, and great coverage on the ensuing kickoff followed by a three and out forced by the Divas defense led to a Boston punt to the D.C. 43-yard line. For the first time since the early moments of the game, the Divas had the ball with a chance to tie the score.

The offense advanced down to the Boston 18-yard line before being held to a fourth and nine situation. Stephanie Nealis came onto the field for a 35-yard field goal try, but her kick came up a few feet short of the crossbar, and the Divas continued to trail by seven.

For most of the evening, both teams faced humid, cloudy conditions. But on the next Boston drive, a slight rain fell for a couple of minutes for the only time all game. On third and long, Cahill dropped back for a pass attempt and the wet ball squirted free from her hands. Veteran linebacker Cherre Marshall fell on the football at the Boston one-yard line, and the Divas were on the doorstep of a tying score.

Congialdi punched the ball over the goal line on the next play, and the Divas were almost even. On the potential game-tying extra point try, however, the wet ball sailed over the hands of the holder on a high snap, and the Divas had to settle for drawing within one point, 28-27, as the third quarter came to a close.

On Boston’s first drive of the fourth quarter, Cahill converted a pass to Bonds right at the first down marker on third and 13 to move the chains, but three straight incomplete passes from Cahill then led to a punt to the D.C. 30-yard line. The Divas had the ball with a chance to take the lead for the first time since their opening possession of the game.

Shelly Freeman picked up ten yards on two carries for a first down, and then Wilson caught a 17-yard pass into Boston territory. After another run by Freeman and a pass to Wilson brought up third and two, Congialdi kept the ball and pushed the pile forward three yards for a critical first down at the Renegades’ 32-yard line.

On second and ten, Congialdi found Shaquanda Gainey wide open on the sideline with no one around her, and Gainey hauled in the pass and scampered 32 yards to the end zone to give the Divas their first lead of the contest. Gainey’s score put the Divas in front, 34-28, with 9:26 left in the game.

Yet Boston had an answer. Faced with their first deficit of the game, the Renegades put their offense in the hands of their leader, Allison Cahill. She completed a nine-yard pass on fourth and nine to give Boston new life at the Divas’ 44-yard line, and on the next play, she raced down the sideline for a demoralizing 44-yard touchdown run. Boston’s only score of the second half put the Renegades back on top, 35-34, with 7:07 left in the contest.

The Divas had fought all the way back from a 22-point deficit, had taken the lead, and now trailed again midway through the fourth quarter. In their last two meetings with Boston, the Divas let a second-half lead slip away as they suffered an agonizingly close defeat at the hands of their bitter rivals. In years past, Cahill’s touchdown run might have broken the Divas’ spirits and left them asking what might have been.

This time would be much different. D’Ajah Scott returned the kickoff back to the Boston 44-yard line. Amanda Congialdi picked up 23 yards on two quarterback runs, and then she fired an 11-yard pass to Kentrina Wilson to give the Divas first and goal from the ten-yard line. Congialdi carried the ball herself again down to the four-yard line, and Scott took it from there, rushing for four yards on second and goal into the end zone for the touchdown. The extra point attempt was blocked, but the Divas regained the lead, 40-35, with just under four minutes to play.

That would prove to be the decisive score of the game. Lois Cook made a great tackle on the ensuing kickoff to pin the Renegades at their own 20-yard line. Three plays actually lost Boston seven yards, and on fourth and 17, Cahill’s pass to Stephanie Pascual only netted nine yards before she was met and brought to the ground by linebacker Trigger McNair. The Divas took over on downs at Boston’s 22-yard line with 2:44 left in the game.

Two runs by Congialdi for 15 yards gave the Divas first and goal and allowed the Divas to run out the clock on the victory. Amanda Congialdi played a spectacular game, not only passing for 168 yards and three touchdowns but also serving as the Divas’ leading rusher with 97 yards on 20 carries and one rushing touchdown on the evening.

The D.C. Divas defeated their Boston rivals for the first time since the 2016 WFA Eastern Conference championship game and moved up to #2 in the national rankings with the victory. The Divas avenged one of their two losses this season, and this Saturday they host the #1 team in the nation and the only other team that has defeated them this year, the Pittsburgh Passion.