By Larry Snyder
Pittsburgh, Pa. – The Pittsburgh Passion (7-1) begin their journey to Georgia for the Women’s Football Alliance D-1 Championship Saturday, June 30 against the Boston Renegades (6-2) at Joe P. DeMichela Stadium. This playoff contest gets underway at 6:30 p.m. The Black and Gold faced the Red, Black, and White at home during the regular season on Saturday, April 21 and emerged with a 44-41 victory. It is the first time the two rivals have met in the playoffs; Boston holds a 2-1 edge in regular season games.
Head coach Teresa Conn has had her squad in the playoffs 11 times in 12 seasons. She owns a 15-7 mark in the playoffs. For long-time starting quarterback Lisa Horton, it is her fifth consecutive appearance in the playoffs and her eighth time overall.
Horton delivered 10 touchdown passes to the scoresheet in 2018 to go along with a pair of interceptions. She also made it into the end zone one time on 19 carries rushing. Be on the lookout for wide receivers Angela Baker and Krystal Cozzo downfield as they tallied 14 and seven touchdowns respectively.
Ebony Montgomery came through as the backup signal caller with 15 passes going into the end zone and legging it for five more scores.
Three players made the ground game formidable this season. Arielle Smith had five touchdowns, and Kiamesha Foster entered the box score four times. Another threat to consider is Gabrielle O’Neil and her three rushing scores.
Helping the Passion offense rack up 319 points in seven contests was the offensive line of Kim Zubovic, Sam Simeone, Dawn Pederson, Lauren Ferragonio, and Veronica Burress. This group of outstanding athletes wins the war along the line of scrimmage.
Keeping the opposition from taking over the scoreboard is defensive tackle Kaitlain Niedermeyer. Seven of her 50 solo tackles were for a loss this season. The duo of Miashawnti Smith and Hannah Daman continue the tradition of outstanding linebacking play in Pittsburgh football. Baker provided 46 return yards on four interceptions.
Two rookies helping to keep the opponent’s offense off-balance are defensive lineman Julie Ionta and linebacker Devon Conner.
Special teams have a pair of stalwart legs in punter Jana C. Meister and rookie placekicker Kirsten Green. Their performance could tilt the match in the Passion’s favor.
Boston’s offense is led by 15-year veteran quarterback Allison Cahill, who led all WFA D-1 signal callers with 1308 passing yards. She put up 13 touchdown strikes and ran for three more scores into the end zone. Like Horton, she tallied just two interceptions.
Cahill’s preferred targets are the wide receiving duo of Emily Beinecke (5-TDs) and Stephanie Pascual (6-TDs). Pascual’s sister Angelica averaged 4.6 yards per attempt as her team’s leading running back, and presented eight rushing touchdowns.
Among the leaders on the Renegade’s defense is linebacker Allie Genereux who furnished 42.5 solo tackles and assisted on 37 stops for a combined total of 79.5 while defensive back Samantha Bloom provided nine pass deflections.
This crew wrapped up the regualr season with back-to-back shutouts of the Baltimore Nighthawks (42-0) and the Philadelphia Phantomz (56-0). Defensive end Brooke Goodman speaking with the team’s staff on the league website, “The biggest difference in our defense between our last Pittsburgh game and coming into this playoff game is confidence in ourselves and trust in each other. We’ve put in the time on the field to improve our skills and off the field in studying hours of game film. I know it will be a battle, the Passion are a great team, but I am extremely confident in our team and whole-heartedly believe we will come out on top.”
My Prediction: After getting my crystal ball back from the pawn shop, my vision is a 36-31 win for the Black and Gold to advance to the Final Four of the WFA playoffs.
Other Voices: The numbers brigade at Massey Ratings forecasts the Women of Steel to claim their fifth triumph at home in 2018 with a 34-28 victory against the Women of New England. This meeting could turn into a scoreboard extravaganza.
Ernst Zermelo in his WFA D-1 Rankings Thursday, June 16 lists Pittsburgh in third, in back of the undefeated Los Angeles Warriors (9-0) the Kansas City Titans (7-1). Boston slips in at the No. 5 slot.
Weather: Per the radar watchers at weather.com, the projection is partly cloudy skies with a high of 91 degrees when the two squads come out of their respective locker rooms. Look for the winds out of the south to southwest at three to six mph and a zero to five percent chance of showers.
Next Up: For the winner, their next playoff confrontation is Saturday, July 14 against the victor of the Atlanta Phoenix (6-1) and DC Divas (6-2) match. The confrontation for the WFA D-1 Championship is Saturday, July 28 at Fifth Third Bank Stadium on the campus of Kennesaw State University in Georgia.