There are some in the media who will tell you it is difficult to beat the same team three times in one football season. But, that is exactly what looms before the undefeated Pittsburgh Passion tonight on the South Side of the Steel City.
The Eastern Conference crown of the Independent Women’s Football League and the privilege to move on to the championship game is what is on the line for the Passion (9-0) when they take on the New York Sharks (7-2) at Cupples Stadium. The gates will open for the fans at 5:30 p.m. with kick off set to go at 7 p.m.
Pittsburgh won the previous two meetings between the long-time rivals this season by a combined score of 52-12. They are the only two defeats that blemish the Sharks record. The Passion lead the all-time series 5-2-0.
In five career games against New York, Pittsburgh quarterback Lisa Horton is 47 of 109 in pass attempts for 658 yards and five touchdowns. Last week, the Middleburg, Ohio native ran for three touchdowns and threw for two more in the 42-12 playoff victory over the Keystone Assault.
During the regular season, Horton’s favorite targets have been Rachel Wojdowski, who has 516 yards on 26 catches and seven touchdowns. Angela Baker has 24 receptions for 385 yards and eight touchdowns while Amanda Haeg contributed 24 catches for 357 yards and one score.
The Sharks have seen running back Ciara Chic put up 197 yards on 36 carries and one touchdown in four career games. The Riverside, West Virginia native had the first 100-yard rushing performance of her career in the post-season when she racked up 101 yards against the Assault.
The Black and Gold defense allowed just 24 points in eight regular-season games and gave up 12 points in the first-round playoff win over the Assault.
Linebacker Tia Montgomery has made her prescence know to the Sharks in five career games as she has put up 23 tackles and two sacks while fellow linebacker Olivia Griswold in seven career games has 35 tackles, one interception, and 1 1/2 sacks.
Not to be overlooked during the regular-season is defensive end Jessica Nelko, who led Pittsburgh with five sacks and tied with fellow lineman Octaiva Griswold for the lead in tackles with 39 each. Defensive back Krissy Edmonds led the Passion with six interceptions.
Meanwhile, New York comes in to tonight’s contest on a three-game win streak. Head coach Rich Harrigan’s offense is led by quarterback Karen Mulligan, who threw for five touchdowns and ran for another in the Sharks’ 60-12 take down of the defending champion Carolina Phoenix in the first round of the playoffs.
This season Mulligan completed 80 of 172 passes for 1598 yards and 18 touchdowns. Her favorite receivers have been tight end Brilynn Fields, who has hauled in 23 catches for 564 yards and nine touchdowns. Krystal Molina has contributed 19 receptions for 330 yards and two touchdowns while teammate Erika Cottle has 17 catches for 320 yards and two touchdowns.
The ground game is solid with running back Caprece Gray racking up 515 yards on 84 carries, but the one for fans to watch in the red zone is Telisha Brown, who has four touchdowns this season.
The Sharks defense is led by 2014 All-Star linebacker Amber Terrell, who had four sacks to go along with her team-leading 39 tackles. Defensive ends Katie Rose and Telisha Brown also have four sacks each while defensive back Jewelle Grimsley leads the squad with three interceptions.
For the record, Pittsburgh has already managed the feat of beating the same opponent three times in the same season when they downed the Cleveland Fusion 23-17, 40-18 and 49-15 in 2007, when they went 12-0 to earn the championship.
Tonight’s victor will take on the winner of the Madison Blaze (7-1) vs. Houston Energy (6-1) contest from the Western Conference in the IWFL World Championship Game on Saturday, July 26 in Rock Hill, S.C.