Renewing a battle between long-time rivals, the Pittsburgh Passion continued their journey in defending their Independent Womens Football League Championship Saturday by defeating the New York Sharks 35-28 at Cupples Stadium.
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With the victory, Teresa Conn’s squad captured a spot in the IWFL Eastern Conference Championship against the Carolina Phoenix (7-2). The Phoenix are coming off a 20-0 win at home Saturday over the Carolina Queens.
Going back to last season’s 11-0 championship title run, the Passion have won 20 consecutive contests. This year the Black and Gold went 7-0 in IWFL action and 8-0 overall during the regular season. Let’s take a look back at the four stars of the game from Saturday that helped to keep Pittsburgh unbeaten.
1) Defensive coordinator Janice Masters’ unit rose to the occasion time-after-time through out the night. One of the many who contributed to halting the Sharks attack was rookie linebacker Hannah Daman, who came up with a pass deflection late in the fourth quarter. Pittsburgh was able to take over the ball on downs and run out the clock to victory.
2) Rookie running back Tara Catone put up 129-yards and a touchdown on 24 carries against New York’s defense. The last time the Catone Train ran against the Sharks (6-3) was in Brooklyn on Saturday, May 30th. The Irwin, Penna. native rolled up 182-yards and a touchdown that day on 31 carries.
3) We have a tie for our third star. Early in the second quarter, linebacker Olivia Griswold returned a blocked punt for a touchdown, made possible in part by a solid lead block from defensive lineman Kim Zubovic. Later in the same quarter, rookie free safety Remy Olinzock recovered an onside kick that led to a Passion scoring drive.
4) Quarterback Lisa Horton threw for 96-yards and two touchdowns. The Middleburg Heights, Ohio native was not finished as she also rushed for 13-yards and a touchdown.
Offense Honorable Mentions: The offensive line came through with another outstanding performance as Shelby Horak, Kaitlin Neidermeyer, Lauren Ferragonio, Veronica Buress, Kate Sullivan got the job done in sustaining drives. It should also be noted that Rachel Wojdowski was the leading wide receiver with 62-yards and two scores.
Defense Honorable Mentions: Among the defenders who curtailed New York’s rally was Zubovic and linebacker Tia Montgomery, who each added nine tackles to the score sheet. Linebacker Michelle Peters had eight stops of her own on the evening.
Special Teams Honorable Mentions: The third part of the equation for victory came from the Passion’s Special Team units. Rookie defensive back Kim Beaver returned five punts for 52-yards while veteran placekicker Amy Fallon went 5-for-5 in her point after attempts.
Up Next: The Passion will take on the Carolina Phoenix in the Eastern Conference Championship Saturday, July 11 at Mansion Park Stadium on Sixth Avenue in Altoona, Pa. Kickoff is scheduled for 7:00 p.m.
In their prior meeting during the regular season, Pittsburgh downed Carolina 41-6 Saturday, May 16 on the South Side. Horton had four touchdown passes and Catone claimed 97-yards rushing and a touchdown on just eight carries. The Passion are 3-0 all-time against the Phoenix.
The winner will go on to meet the winner of the Utah Falconz (6-0) versus Madison Blaze (8-1) match-up out of the Western Conference in the IWFL Championship Saturday, July 24 in Rock Hill, South Carolina. Kick-off is scheduled for 7 p.m. ET at District 3 Stadium.