A Prince George’s County women’s full-contact professional football team, the D.C. Divas, hosted its home opener at James W. England Stadium in Springfield, Va. against the Boston Renegades on April 22. However, the Renegades were too much for the Divas, who were the 2015 and 2016 Women’s Football Alliance national champions, in a game that went into overtime. Despite winning their first two games of the year, the Divas fell to the Renegades 26-22.
Boston quarterback Allison Cahill moved the ball down the field effortlessly during the opening drive of the contest. The Divas forced Boston to go for it on fourth down deep inside Divas territory, but Cahill found wide receiver Emily Beinecke in the back of the end zone while being flushed out of the pocket to strike first 7-0.
Boston attempted to recover an onside kick following their scoring drive to catch the Divas off guard, but Kentrina Wilson stretched out and dove to retrieve the ball and maintain possession. It only took one play for the Divas to get back into the game. Typically a linebacker, Whitney Simms took the snap from quarterback Kendra Bates and showed her athleticism as she ran down the right sideline for a 48-yard touchdown.
“I am the rookie to the running backs group so I don’t think they [Boston] were ready for that,” Simms told the AFRO. “It feels good; I think I can bring over my defensive knowledge to offense so I feel like I have an advantage.”
The Divas responded early in the second quarter when D’Ajah Scott jumped in front of an errant pass from Cahill for an interception to set the Divas in prime scoring position. In sloppy and rainy conditions, a powerful rushing attack aided the Divas as they pushed the ball down to the two-yard line.
On fourth down, Simms tried to find space in the middle of the scrum, but she eventually bounced out to the right sideline to scamper into the end zone for her second touchdown of the game. Simms finished the game with 78 yards on 12 carries.
In a back-and-forth contest, both teams struggled to find any rhythm in a defensive battle. However, Boston regained possession late in the second quarter when Bates couldn’t find wide receiver Shaquanda Gainey inside the three-minute mark.
On a time-consuming drive, Cahill finally found Beinecke again in the back corner of the end zone with only 33 seconds remaining. Fortunately for the Divas, Beinecke failed to hit the extra point. The teams went into halftime tied 13-13.
In the second half, Boston struck again with just a little over three minutes remaining in the third quarter. Nicole Buechler returned a 27-yard punt for a touchdown to go up 20-13.
Divas Head Coach Greg Gaskins took a timeout early in the fourth quarter to switch quarterbacks, substituting Amanda Congialdi in for Bates when she could not set the team in a leading position throughout the third quarter. “We feel that we have two starting quarterbacks on this team,” said Congialdi. “The game was kind of dragging along a little bit, but I felt the offense got a spark a bit so my offense motivated me.”
After forcing Boston to punt after three plays on the following drive, Congialdi led a 60-yard scoring drive capped off by a seven-yard touchdown pass to Wilson tying the game up 20-20 after a successful extra point with only 2:03 remaining.
With only seconds remaining in the fourth quarter, Cahill missed her mark and threw an interception to Callie Brownson to send the game into overtime.
After D.C. won the toss and elected to defer, Boston running back, Whitney Zelee ran through the heart of the Divas defense for a nine-yard touchdown. However, Divas linebacker Safi Mojidi seized an opportunity to score a few points after scooping up a botched snap during the extra point attempt as she ran for an 86-yard conversion 26-22.
“We were down and got ourselves back in it and we were in position to win the game and give ourselves a fighting chance,” said Gaskins. “They will get over this loss. This is a tough team and we have a lot of veteran leadership. Come tomorrow, this loss will be a distant memory and we will be moving on to Chicago.” The Divas are scheduled to host the Chicago Force on April 29.