By Larry Snyder
Farmington Hills, MI – Coming back from a two-year break, the Pittsburgh Passion (1-0) returned to the field of competition of the Women’s Football Alliance Saturday, April 9, in Detroit and defeated the Venom 27-8 at the Hawk Community Center.
A familiar face to the Black and Gold faithful claimed the contest’s first touchdown. Third-year running back Arielle Smith took the ball into the end zone at 11:38 in the first quarter on a three-yard run. With a strong swing of Brandy Polinick’s leg, the point-after attempt was good to give co-owner and co-head coach Teresa Conn’s crew an early 7-0 lead against the Women of Motown.
Smith last scored on the gridiron in the WFA Playoffs in June 2019. Her first career post-season touchdown came in the 41-6 triumph over the New York Wolves. She followed with six points against the Detroit Dark Angels; however, that match ended in a 34-33 overtime loss. It was good to see Smith reignite the fuse to the Pittsburgh offense.
Co-head coach and offensive coordinator Lisa Horton had her squad hitting on all cylinders in the second as starting quarterback Alyssa George connected on a 46-yard pass to wide receiver Marcelina Chavez at 13:29. This time the point-after was no good as the Women of the Steel City led 13-0. George and Chavez were both ready to add more to the box score.
Chavez left the Venom defenders behind on a 54-yard touchdown dash at 1:45 in the second. George hit fourth-year wide receiver Jana Meister for the two-point conversion to boost the score to 21-0. Chavez and running back Maria Fautali provided power to the run game as they combined for 89 rushing yards.
After a fumble recovery in the final seconds of the half, George threw a 26-yard touchdown strike to wide receiver Ellie Mularski with just two seconds left on the scoreboard. The two-point conversion failed, but the Passion owned a 27-0 lead at halftime. Mularski and Chavez pooled their efforts into a total of 82 receiving yards.
From WFA and YouTube – WFA 2022 Season Promo…
Defensive Coordinator Erik Keister had a reason to smile at the game’s conclusion. His unit did not permit Detroit’s offense to find any traction with four sacks, three interceptions, one fumble recovery, and five pass deflections.
Sixth-year linebacker Hannah Daman contributed 12 tackles, while veteran lineman Kaitlain Niedermeyer and linebacker Devon Peace added eight stops apiece. It was a team effort across the defensive front in keeping the Venom off-balance, including Kim Zubovic, Chelsea Biggers, and Kamea Lowe.
The trio of free safety Lawanda Pearson, defensive backs Jasmine Jones, and Niaja Brokaw each collected one interception. Rebecca Ehrgood, Ashley Decicco, and Mularski helped in not allowing any Venom receivers to get open and put points on the score sheet.
Detroit (0-1) did not surrender as quarterback Allie Gorcyca scrambled into the end zone at 11:55 in the fourth, and she crossed the goal line on the run for the two-point conversion. The Venom is the 2019 and 2021 WFA D-2 National Conference Champions. This season they join with the Passion at the WFA Pro (D-1) level.
NEXT UP: The Tri-State Warriors arrive in the Steel City Saturday, April 30th, for the Passion home opener. You can watch the Women of Steel at Joe P. DeMichela Stadium, located at West Allegheny High School. Contests commence at 6:00 p.m. You can choose your seats online here.
Gridiron Clipboard: The captains for the Passion in Detroit were Peace (#23), Daman (#36), Zubovic (#98), Meister (#85), Chavez (#11), and George (#27).