By Larry Snyder
Imperial, Pa. – Excitement filled the bleachers on Saturday, June 15, as the Pittsburgh Passion wrapped up their Women’s Football Alliance D-2 playoff match with a 41-6 victory, after exploiting three New York Wolves’ turnovers, early in the game, to build a 20-0 advantage by the end of the first quarter.
Defensive tackle Kaitlain Niedermeyer got things rolling for the Women of Steel with a fumble recovery when New York, on a second down and four, ran up the middle and surrendered the ball at the line of scrimmage. Five plays later second-year running back Arielle Smith picked up her first career playoff touchdown as she powered her way into the end zone off left tackle at the eight-minute mark. Franki Kilmer, a first-year linebacker and kicker, added the first of her two successful point-after attempts.
Passion defensive back Rebecca Ehrgood was the next to strike as she hauled in a Danneille Ayala pass on third down and long at the Pittsburgh 35-yard line and returned it to the New York 28-yard line. Working from great field position, quarterback Angela Baker delivered her second career postseason rushing score at 3:23 of the first. It was a one-yard dash on a sweep around the right tackle. Kilmer claimed her second PAT as the Black and Gold owned a 14-0 lead on the score sheet.
After a short kickoff, New York set up on their 41-yard line for their next series of downs. This time it was Devon Conner from her linebacker position that grabbed Ayala’s pass on the Wolves’ 45-yard line and streaked down the opposing sideline for another six points at 2:01 of the first. The point-after was no good.
There was one more opportunity for the Black and Gold as Kilmer stepped in front of an Ayala throw at the Passion 25-yard line and advanced the ball to the New York 46-yard line at 2:35 in the second quarter. However, neither team could assemble a successful drive to the end zone in the second. Pittsburgh went into halftime with a 20-0 lead over New York.
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Coming into the third quarter, Pittsburgh on their first possession after a New York punt, forged an eight-play drive that ended with a dive into the end zone by Baker on a five-yard roll out to the right. After a pair of penalties, holding against Pittsburgh and pass interference against New York, Baker completed a toss to Ausinette Rodriquez for the two-point conversion. It was 28-0 in favor of the Women of Steel at 8:49 in the third.
New York returned a short kickoff to the Pittsburgh 49-yard line. The Wolves picked up their six points at 6:01 in the third when Ayala on a quarterback keeper plunged across the goal line from one yard out.
Pittsburgh answered back on just three plays with their next drive as Baker connected on a 60-yard scoring strike to Conner with 4:33 left in the third. The Black and Gold was ahead 35-6.
Kia Foster, a fourth-year running back, collected her first career postseason touchdown in a Passion uniform at 11:44 in the fourth quarter. Head Coach Teresa Conn and the Women of the Steel City moved forward in the WFA playoffs with a 41-6 win.
Box Score Bites: Baker contributed 223 passing yards in addition to her touchdown. The 5-foot-4 signal caller from Slippery Rock University had no problem tucking the ball under her arm and rushing for 48 yards and a pair of scores.
Fans witnessed Krystal Cozzo record six receptions for 76 yards while Conner supplied three catches for 82 yards to go along with her trip to the end zone.
When it came to keeping the running attack fresh, Smith and Foster rotated taking the handoff and combined for 89 rushing yards on 21 attempts.
Linebacker Hannah Damon, who graduated this year from Robert Morris University, led the defense with nine tackles while rookie defensive back Diamond Rodriguez was next with eight stops. Neidermeyer, who got the assault of the score sheet started with her fumble recovery, tallied seven tackles.
Free safety Tenisha Spencer joined Kilmer, Conner, and Ehrgood in providing an interception during the evening. This quartet dispensed a combined total of 19 tackles.
The defensive players I just mentioned along with Kimberly Zubovic, Randee Murray, Julie Ionta, Chance Willis, and Lizz Costanzo made a terrific goalline stand in the fourth. With a first and goal at the Pittsburgh six-yard line, New York’s Ayala faked the exchange and pushed the ball to the one. The next three attempts to cross into the end zone was stacked up at the line of scrimmage.
Final Word: Passion offensive lineman Lauren Ferragonio, who is in her seventh season, spoke with Michael Love at triblive.com about how a large number of rookies and veterans blended this season, “We haven’t even peaked yet, and every week, the team gets stronger, and the chemistry between the younger and more experienced players grows.”
Gridiron Clipboard: Quarterback Ebony Montgomery got clearance from her doctors to be in uniform for the playoff matchup with the Wolves. The UNC-Chapel Hill alumnus was injured before the Week 1 regular season clash with the Cleveland Fusion. She got in for a series of downs in the fourth, and it was good to see her back on the sidelines.
Next Up: The Pittsburgh Passion (6-2 regular season / 1-0 playoffs) host the Detroit Dark Angels (6-2 / 1-0) for the WFA D-2 National Conference Championship Saturday, June 29, at Joe P. DeMichela Stadium. This Week Seven rematch from the regular season gets underway at 7:00 p.m. Look for your seats online.
The winner faces either the St. Louis Slam (8-1 / 1-0) or the Mile High Blaze (7-1 / 1-0) from the American Conference for the WFA D-2 National Championship Saturday, July 13, at Marv Kay Stadium on the grounds of the Colorado School of Mines. Kickoff in Golden, Colorado is Noon.
Looking Back On YouTube.com – Women’s Football Alliance – WFA Division 2 Quarter Finals: Pittsburgh Passion Vs. NY Wolves…
Top Of The Article Photo By Larry N. Snyder – All Rights Reserved