Recap vs. Atlanta Phoenix – June 30, 2018

D.C. Divas Advance to Eighth Conference Title Game, Defeat Atlanta, 56-0
DC 56, Atlanta 0
By Neal Rozendaal

Landover, MD – The D.C. Divas have won three national championships in their history. On Saturday night, D’Ajah Scott – who wears #4 – helped the Divas make it to the Final Four and take their first step toward championship #4 with an electrifying performance.

D’Ajah Scott rushed for 251 yards and four touchdowns on just nine carries, the defense recorded the 60th shutout in team history, and the D.C. Divas began the 2018 playoffs with a 56-0 victory over the Atlanta Phoenix in the Eastern Conference semifinals. The Divas improved to 13-2 all-time in playoff openers and advanced to the conference championship game for the eighth time in franchise history.

The Divas (7-2) started the contest with their longest offensive drive of the game. D.C. fielded the opening kickoff at their own 29-yard line, and two carries by Scott netted 33 yards to put the ball on the Atlanta side of midfield. A few plays later, the Divas faced fourth and eight at the 46-yard line. Scott was tackled a yard short of the first down marker for a potential turnover on downs, but a facemask penalty tacked an additional 15 yards onto the run and gave the Divas an automatic first down at the Atlanta 24.

The D.C. offense soon found their backs to the wall again, facing fourth and ten from that spot. Quarterback Amanda Congialdi found wide receiver Kentrina Wilson for a critical 12-yard pass and a first down at the Atlanta 12-yard line. On the next play, Scott zoomed up the middle of the field and into the end zone for her first score of the evening. Stephanie Nealis converted her first extra point kick on a perfect eight-for-eight evening, and the Divas led, 7-0, with 8:51 left in the first quarter.

The Phoenix (6-2) had trouble early against the Divas’ pass defense, throwing three incomplete passes to start their opening drive and punting to the D.C. 39-yard line. The Divas’ offense picked up two yards on the next two plays, but on third down, D’Ajah Scott broke through the line, made a cutback, and raced 59 yards to the end zone. The Phoenix had not given up more than eight points in a game in the regular season, but with 7:10 remaining in the first quarter, the Divas led Atlanta, 14-0.

On the following drive, a 15-yard pass completion gave Atlanta a first down and possession on the Divas’ side of the field for the first time at the 39-yard line. But the D.C. defense quickly shut the door on Atlanta’s scoring hopes; on fourth and five, the Phoenix completed a pass to the sidelines, but it gained no yardage and resulted in a turnover on downs at the D.C. 34.

Scott struck again on the next play. She burst straight ahead through a huge hole in the offensive line and sprinted 66 yards for her third touchdown of the game and a 21-0 advantage for D.C. with 5:22 still remaining in the first period.

The Phoenix and Divas then traded three and outs, with the Divas kicking the ball to midfield on their first punt of the game. A few plays later, the first quarter came to a close with the Divas on top, 21-0.

After penalties on both sides, the Phoenix faced fourth and six near midfield early in the second quarter. Atlanta decided to go for it, but an incomplete pass gave the Divas the ball again at their own 49-yard line.

On third and six, D’Ajah Scott came up big again. She ripped off a 17-yard run and was only brought down when an Atlanta defender grabbed her facemask, which added another 15 yards on after the play. That resulted in a first down at the Atlanta 15-yard line. Shelly Freeman picked up eight yards on a run, and then Okiima Trotter was dragged down one yard short of the goal line. Congialdi finished the drive with a one-yard quarterback sneak for the score. With 11:46 left before halftime, the Divas held a commanding 28-0 lead.

Thanks to a great boot from Nealis and some excellent kickoff coverage, the Phoenix started their next drive way back at their own three-yard line. Two penalties by the Divas resulted in first downs for Atlanta, however, and they soon had second and five from the D.C. 47-yard line.

The Divas’ defense was able to get a stop with a little help from the Czech Republic. Petra Nohelova, a member of the Prague Harpies on loan to the Divas this season as she attends graduate school, registered her first sack of the year, dropping Atlanta quarterback Renee Langlais for an 11-yard loss. That sack stalled the Atlanta drive and led to a punt to the Divas’ 43-yard line.

The Divas and Phoenix exchanged four and outs, as both teams passed incomplete on fourth down to give possession away. The Divas took over in Atlanta territory with just over five minutes to play, and they bled down the clock while driving for another touchdown. The big play on the drive came when Shaquanda Gainey reeled in a 19-yard pass along the sidelines on fourth and four, setting the Divas up with first and goal at the seven-yard line.

Okiima Trotter then powered through the Atlanta defense and into the end zone. The margin was 35-0 in favor of the Divas with just 57 seconds left in the half, and it looked like that might be the score at the halftime break.

But the D.C. defense picked an opportune time for their first turnover of the game. Langlais dropped back to pass for Atlanta, and Kianna Murphy drilled the quarterback and forced a fumble. Safi Mojidi fell on the ball for the Divas at the Atlanta seven-yard line with 35 seconds remaining in the half.

Congialdi immediately connected with Wilson on a seven-yard touchdown pass with 28 seconds left in the half. Kentrina Wilson finished the contest with five catches for 40 yards, and her lone touchdown of the game put the Divas ahead, 42-0, as the first half came to an end.

At halftime, the Divas welcomed their fourth class of players and contributors into the D.C. Divas Hall of Fame. Running back Monica Livingston, offensive lineman Ghost Marfull, defensive lineman T.K. Washington, and Senior VP of Football Operations Rich Daniel were recognized in a halftime ceremony as the newest members of the D.C. Divas Hall of Fame.

The Atlanta offense would fare little better in the second half. They received the ball to start the third quarter but were immediately forced to punt to the D.C. 35. The Divas’ defense was led by Miteka Trueheart and Trigger McNair with five tackles apiece. Tia Watkins made a huge impact as well with four tackles, all for losses. Cherre Marshall contributed four tackles with two for a loss, and Kianna Murphy, Nicole Houston, and Kucheria Eades all added three tackles each.

D’Ajah Scott put an exclamation point on her dominating performance on the first drive of the second half. She caught an eight-yard pass to start the drive, then she ran for 15 yards on third and two to give D.C. a first down at the Atlanta 41. Two plays later, Scott ran to the outside and made a cutback as three Phoenix defenders collided into each other. Scott then dashed over the goal line for a 41-yard touchdown run, her fourth of the game, and the Divas led, 49-0.

D’Ajah Scott left the game after one drive in the second half. She finished the contest with 250 yards on only nine carries and four touchdowns. Scott is the second player in Divas history to rush for 250 yards in a single game, joining Kenyetta Grigsby, who performed the feat four times. Scott’s 27.8 yards per carry is a new Divas single-game playoff record, breaking the record set by Livingston against the Connecticut Crush in 2003.

The D.C. defense quickly came through with their second turnover of the game when Mara Lockard recovered an Atlanta fumble at the Phoenix 16-yard line. On the next play, Trotter scored her second rushing touchdown of the contest, putting the Divas out front, 56-0, midway through the third quarter. Trotter finished the game with six carries for 31 yards and two touchdowns.

The Divas began to tap their reserves on defense, and the Phoenix responded with a nice offensive drive to the D.C. 25-yard line. Quiana Ford came up with a sack on fourth down, however, which gave the Divas possession as the third quarter came to an end. The Divas led entering the fourth quarter, 56-0.

The final 15 minutes went very quickly, as a running clock was instituted for the fourth quarter. The Divas and Phoenix both came through with long drives before turning the ball over with an incomplete pass on fourth down. After one possession in the fourth quarter for each team, time ran out in the game with the D.C. Divas capturing a 56-0 victory over the Atlanta Phoenix.

With the victory, the D.C. Divas advanced to the conference championship game for the eighth time in franchise history. They will host their archrivals, the Boston Renegades, on July 14 for the Eastern Conference title and the right to represent the East in the national championship game in Atlanta on July 28. The contest on July 14 will be the 27th meeting between the D.C. Divas and Boston in the last decade, and it will mark the ninth time in the last ten years that the Divas and Boston have met in the playoffs in a winner-take-all setting.