Divas to Renew Historic Rivalry in Special Interleague Game

Washington, DC – The D.C. Divas notched their first victory of the 2014 season last weekend by defeating the Columbus Comets. Saturday they will attempt to turn that victory into a winning streak, stepping out of their league for the first time in franchise history in a special contest against their historical rivals, the Baltimore Burn.

Nikki Williams, a legendary Divas wide receiver for nine seasons from 2002-2009 and 2011, put aside her role as Divas wide receivers coach to step under center as the team’s quarterback. Williams threw four touchdown passes in the Divas’ 39-0 triumph over Columbus, despite having only a week to prepare for the contest against the Comets.

“I thought Nikki did a great job, especially coming in so late and not having a lot of practice,” said Divas head coach Alison Fischer. “She remained pretty cool and calm in the pocket, and she did a good job. She did what we asked of her and connected with [Kentrina Wilson] for three touchdowns.”

Wilson and fellow receiver Ashley Whisonant combined for four touchdowns Saturday, making a name for themselves as one of the most fearsome one-two combinations at wide receiver in the league. “I don’t know that you can cover them both man-to-man,” Coach Fischer remarked of Whisonant and Wilson. “When you start having to put two defenders on one or both of them, it really opens up our running game.”

“They’re both great receivers, and they bring different strengths to the table,” she added. “We’re very fortunate to have them both on the field.”

Not to be overlooked in Saturday’s performance was the play of the Divas’ defense, which pitched the 48th shutout in franchise history. Fischer remarked, “The defense is coming along and really starting to gel. They’re starting to understand the schemes a little better. They bent a little against Columbus, but they never broke and were able to keep them out of the end zone. It was a very, very good performance for them.”

The Divas now hit the road for a game against the Baltimore Burn of the Women’s Spring Football League (WSFL). It’s the first interleague game in the 14-year history of the D.C. Divas, and it comes against a historical rival. The Divas and Burn have played 12 times in their histories, but this is the first meeting between the two squads since 2006. Coach Fischer, who played defensive back for the Divas from 2001-2009 and 2011, remembers the Burn well.

“They were our bitter rivals back in the day. We played them several times back in my playing days,” Coach Fischer said. “It’s been a long time since we faced them, but a rival’s always a rival, so we’ll be expecting them to bring their best.”

The Burn are 2-1 on the 2014 season, but two of those victories were by forfeit, so the Divas’ coaching staff can’t rely on game film for scouting. Instead, the Divas will need to go into the game prepared for anything.

“I don’t really know what to expect from them. They’re in a different league, so I haven’t seen any film,” Coach Fischer noted. “We’re going to start out playing our game, offensively and defensively, and adjust as needed. We’ll need to watch really closely the first series or two and make some game-time adjustments quickly.”

Baltimore Burn series notes – This is the 13th meeting all-time between the Divas and the Burn, but the first since 2006. The Divas and Burn were both founded in 2001 as two of ten charter members of the NWFA. Of those ten, the Divas and Burn are the only two that have played continuously since then, and both are in their 14th season of play in 2014.

The Baltimore Burn were the Divas’ first true rivals. The Burn were supposed to be the Divas’ opposition in the first game in Divas history on April 21, 2001. But poor field conditions caused the game to be cancelled, and the Divas opened the following week against the Philadelphia Liberty Belles instead. The Divas defeated the Burn in their first meeting on May 26, 2001, by a 20-8 score; it was the second victory in the history of the D.C. Divas franchise.

In 2002, the Divas and Burn played four times in the regular season. It is the only time the Divas have played the same opponent four times in a single year. The Divas went 5-3 in 2002, but the Burn had the upper hand in their head-to-head series, handing the Divas all three of their losses that season. A chance at the Divas’ first playoff berth came down to their final game of the year, but the Divas fell short of the Burn in their season finale, 6-0, and Baltimore went to the playoffs instead.

The Divas and Burn split their home-and-home series in 2003, but the Burn’s victory in the Divas’ regular season finale, 22-14, kept the Divas from clinching a perfect 8-0 regular season. That game was the subject of a segment on the CBS Evening News in 2003. The following year, the Divas got revenge by securing an 8-0 record with a 52-16 win over the Burn in the final game of the 2004 regular season.

The Divas and Burn played twice in 2006, when the Divas went on to win the NWFA championship. After that season, the Divas left the NWFA for the IWFL in the search for stronger competition, and the Burn stayed behind. Baltimore played two more seasons in the NWFA; when that league folded, the Burn joined the WFA for the 2009 and 2010 seasons.

The D.C. Divas joined several of the premier teams in women’s football in moving from the IWFL to the WFA after the 2010 season, making the WFA the top competitive league in women’s football. With the Divas joining the WFA, it looked as though the Divas and the Baltimore Burn might once again renew acquaintances. But that same off-season, the Burn left the WFA for the upstart WSFL, where they have remained for the last four years.

Saturday’s contest will be the first ever between two women’s football teams that each have 14 seasons of continuous play. The game will be held at Utz Towardowicz Field, 200 S. Linwood Avenue in Baltimore. Gates will open at 4:30 PM with kickoff at 5:30 PM. Come on out to see your Divas resurrect their 14-year-old rivalry with the Baltimore Burn!

Around the WFA – The defending champion Chicago Force (4-0) improved to 28-0 all-time in regular season play in the WFA with a 30-0 victory over the previously undefeated West Michigan Mayhem (2-1). Chicago travels to Indianapolis to play the Indy Crash (1-2) this weekend…The Cleveland Fusion (2-1) held off the Crash last weekend for their second victory of the year. They host the Boston Militia (3-0) on Saturday, the team that handed them their only loss so far this season…This week’s only battle of undefeated teams might surprise you. The Toledo Reign (3-0) will try to move to 4-0 for the first time in their 11-year history by traveling to Pittsburgh and downing the resurrected Pittsburgh Force (2-0)…The Nebraska Stampede (3-0) will also try this weekend to improve to 4-0 for the first time ever, but they too have a difficult challenge as they host the Tulsa Threat (2-1)…One of the Northwest’s premier rivalries resumes Saturday when the Portland Shockwave (2-1) visit the Seattle Majestics (3-0). The Majestics triumphed in the season-opening meeting between these two teams, 33-12, but the Shockwave are the only team to score on the Majestics so far this season.