Football at any level demands extraordinary amounts of sacrifice and teamwork.
The Pittsburgh Passion answered the challenge on Saturday night in Rock Hill, SC as they defeated the Houston Energy 41-7 to capture the Independent Women’s Football League Championship, and finish the season undefeated.
The Black and Gold defense took charge of the gridiron as they forced five turnovers, including three first-half interceptions. Defensive linemen Octavia Griswold and Kim Zubovic each had one sack on the night, while defensive end Jessica Nelko and defensive back Ashley Strawn both contributed a fumble recovery in the second half.
Pittsburgh cornerback Michelle Brevard-Peters grabbed her third career post-season interception and returned it 53-yards for a touchdown with 13:24 in the first quarter to give the Passion a 6-0 lead on the scoreboard. It was the first touchdown return of her career.
Houston came right back on their next possession as quarterback Laura Cantu hit Eshombe Singleton with a 12-yard touchdown pass to go ahead by one point. This was the only extra point or two-point conversion that the Passion gave up all season. It was also the only time the Energy enjoyed the lead in the contest.
Sharon Vasquez was the second member of the Passion secondary to step in front of a Cantu throw as she hauled in her fourth career post-season interception. That turnover led to quarterback Lisa Horton finding Rachel Wojdowski in the end zone with a 17-yard touchdown strike. Vasquez is now the team leader in post-season interceptions.
Next it was free safety Alex McAtee, picking off Cantu’s pass at the Houston 37, that helped set up a 23-yard scoring run by running back Ciara Chic giving the Passion a 27-7 lead to end the first half.
Cantu finished the day throwing for 169 yards to go along with her one touchdown and three interceptions.
The Passion was firing on all cylinders as it rolled up 450 yards of total offense, 250 alone in the first half. Horton, who was named the game’s Most Valuable Player, was 12 of 17 for 182 passing yards and one touchdown. She also rushed for 38 yards on six carries and one touchdown.
Chic piled up 125 yards on 17 carries and two touchdowns. The Charleston, WV native added an eight-yard score on the first series of the second half.
Wide receiver Rachel Wojdowski hauled in six passes for 136 receiving yards and two touchdowns. Her second scoring catch came late in the third quarter on a 45-yard toss from back-up quarterback Angela Baker.
The offensive line made things happen with All-Star center Talisa Beachom leading the way for the unsung heroes up front in the trenches.
Placekicker Amy Fallon, from Jefferson Hills, PA, was solid on special teams as she converted five of six extra-points on the evening.
As you can see, one person can not win a football game by herself. But, a team with the right dedication can go 11-0 and bring home a championship. The trophy came home where it belongs, in the ‘Burgh.
From The Clipboard: Pittsburgh went 8-0 during the regular-season and 4-0 in the playoffs to finish 12-0 in 2007. That is when they won their first championship, as members of the National Women’s Football Association.
Joining Horton, Vasquez, Brevard-Peters, Beachom, and Zubovic on both championship rosters are quarterback/long snapper Kara Prentice, linebackers Tia Montgomery, Olivia Griswold, and Beth Amato, tight-end Kate Sullivan, cornerback Krissy Edmonds, and defensive tackle Veronica Burress.
Janice Masters, who was a defensive lineman and punter in 2007 is now a linebacker coach with the Passion while former player, now co-owner and head coach Teresa Conn was also with the team for both championships.