The Pittsburgh Passion, under the guidance of Teresa Conn, are on the verge of creating a long-lasting legacy. With their 41-12 victory over the Carolina Phoenix at Mansion Park Stadium in Altoona Saturday, the Black and Gold captured their second consecutive Eastern Conference Championship in the Independent Womens Football League.
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Pittsburgh is returning to defend their IWFL World Championship Saturday, July 25 against the unbeaten Western Conference winners, Utah Falconz (7-0). The contest is being held at District 3 Stadium in Rock Hill, South Carolina, and kick-off is set for 7 p.m. ET. The last team from the Steel City to claim back-to-back championships was the Pittsburgh Penguins in 1990-1991 and 1991-1992.
Last season, the Passion collected eight regular-season wins and swept the three-game playoffs to go 11-0 in bringing home the IWFL World Championship. They earned a 41-7 victory over the Houston Energy for the title. With this season’s run, the Black and Gold have won 21 consecutive contests.
Over the two IWFL playoff match-ups this season, offensive coordinator Adam Santoro’s squad has contributed a total of 76 points. Defensive coordinator Janice Masters’ unit has permitted a total of 40 points. Her wrecking crew surrendered an average of 6.6 points per game during the regular season.
It is time to take a look back at the players Saturday that helped the Passion achieve another Eastern Conference Championship.
1) It was all aboard the Tara Catone Train as she was bound for glory. The rookie running back rolled up 173-yards on 11 carries and three touchdowns. The Slippery Rock University product is the first Passion rookie to put up three rushing scores in a playoff contest. The Irwin, Penna. native added another touchdown receiving as she had three receptions for 70-yards.
2) One of the many contributors on defense was rookie free safety Kim Beaver, who led the barrage with 10 tackles and one forced fumble. She finished the regular season tied with fellow rookie defensive back Jillian Croce for the team lead in interceptions with three apiece.
3) Quarterback Lisa Horton put together another outstanding performance. The Middleburg Heights, Ohio native completed 11-of-14 for 172 yards and one touchdown. Horton, who is in her 13th season, also carried the ball three times for five yards and a score.
4) We have a tie for our fourth star of the night. Passion linebacker Olivia Griswold and defensive end Jessica Nelko each had seven stops against Carolina. Griswold chipped in one sack and Nelko added 1.5 sacks and a forced fumble.
Offense Honorable Mentions: Running back Ciara Kimbrough rushed for 25-yards on five carries and one touchdown. Wide receiver Angela Baker hauled in four passes for 58-yards while teammate Sharon Vasquez had 48-yards on five catches.
Defense Honorable Mentions: Second-year defensive back Ashley Strawn, out of West Virginia Wesleyan College, supplied three tackles and an interception. A pair of rookie linebackers, Chelsea Zahn and Hannah Daman, each had five tackles against the Phoenix. Zahn had 0.5 sack and Daman put up a fumble recovery.
Special Teams Honorable Mention: Placekicker Amy Fallon went 6-for-7 in her point-after attempts. She also punted twice for a total of 40-yards. The kickoff unit created a turnover as rookie defensive back Ceree Wilkerson forced a fumble on a kickoff that was recovered by rookie linebacker Rosie Christian in the first half.
Carolina head coach Willie Parker’s offense would not quit as it recorded two touchdowns in the fourth quarter. Quarterback Ebony Montgomery ran the ball in with 8:13 remaining on the clock, and came back with a touchdown strike to wide receiver Jennifer King at the 6:21 mark. The two-point conversion attempts on both scores were stopped by the Passion. The Phoenix did announce after the loss that they have accepted a bid to play in the Founders Bowl at 7 p.m. on Friday, July 24 as part of IWFL Championship Weekend.
From The Clipboard: After Saturday’s triumph, the Passion is 4-0 all-time against the Phoenix…It will be the first meeting ever between Utah and Pittsburgh…The Falconz is coming off a 73-0 shutout of the Madison Blaze in the Western Conference Championship…It is the second straight year, that Rock Hill has hosted the IWFL World Championship.