With the 2013 postseason marking the third consecutive playoff encounter between the Chicago Force and the Boston Militia, stakes were high as the winner would advance to the 2013 WFA National Title Game. As both clubs were undefeated, pressures mounted on both sides as each team employed a different offense.
A highly potent running attack led by 2,000-yard rusher Whitney Zelee signified Boston’s charge to the conference championship game, while the Chicago Force depended on the rocket arm of Sami Grisafe.
The talent on each squad was remarkable as both contributed players to the US National Team that captured gold at the 2013 IFAF Women’s Worlds. Boston sent four players to Team USA; Adrienne Smith Mia Brickhouse, Victoria Eddy and Stephanie Jeffers.
Of note, nine members from the Force roster competed for Team USA. Quarterback Sami Grisafe headlined a group that featured Jeanette Gray, Brandy Hatcher, Jamie Menzyk, Elizabeth Okey, Tami Engelman, Dawn Pederson and Ashely Berggren. In addition, Force head coach John Konecki was also named as bench boss for Team USA.
Lazier Field provided the backdrop for this intense rivalry as the National Football Conference crown was at stake. Boston received the kickoff and Asia Landrum ran it back 49 yards to give the squad great field position. Unable to convert on a fourth-down play, Boston was unable to capitalize on the impressive kickoff return.
The first score of the game came courtesy of a highlight-reel play by Jessica Javelet. An exchange of punts put Chicago on their own 10-yard line. Running a sweep around the right sideline, Javelet ran for daylight on a remarkable 90-yard touchdown. It provided Chicago with the confidence to counter the undefeated Militia’s premier running game.
Having won the national title in 2012 with the San Diego Surge, Javelet would prove to be a shrewd acquisition for Chicago. She would log two more touchdowns as part of a punishing running game for Chicago.
While it is not their traditional method to run the ball on offense, it was part of a big statement against a Boston team that boasted the best running game in the WFA. Despite Grisafe’s reduced impact on the offense, she would make her presence felt. Ashley Berggren would catch a 20-yard touchdown pass from Grisafe in the second quarter, as the first half closed with a convincing 26-0 lead at halftime.
Meanwhile, Whitney Zelee, the first woman in WFA history to log a 2,000-yard season could only manage 13 yards on eight carries in the first half.
Once again relying on Zelee, Boston would wear down Chicago’s defense in the second half. Zelee would score three touchdowns as she returned to form. Touchdown runs of 5, 6 and 76 yards put Boston back into the game. Quarterback Allison Cahill would also throw a touchdown pass to Adrienne Smith.
Despite the momentum, Boston’s high-powered running game would be unexpectedly cooled off.
A half-hour delay in the fourth quarter (due to lightning) only added to the tension as Boston was looking to overcome its 39-27 deficit. Due to the rainfall, the ball became slippery as the elements became an unforeseen opponent for both squads.
Despite their best efforts, Boston was unable to come back. Zelee would accumulate 220 rushing yards and 54 receiving yards against the Force, giving them their toughest test of the postseason. Of note, the Force defense would allow 362 yards. Despite a weak run defense, the Force managed to sack Allison Cahill six times.
Boston’s hopes were squashed when Jennifer Dulski recovered a fumble in the end zone for the Force as the final was 46-27. Dulski’s ten tackles and one sack performance earned her the nod as the Defensive Player of the Game. Deirdre Hort’s seven tackles and Nakita Bowman’s five were best among the members of the Boston defense.
Statistically, Grisafe would only log 183 yards while completing 17 of 29 passes. Jessica Javelet carried the load as she rushed for 183 yards and three touchdowns. In the second half, Darcy Leslie added another 70 rushing yards for the Force, while Jeanette Gray had seven receptions.
The Force now advance to the WFA National Title Game where they will be competing against the Dallas Diamonds. The August 3 contest in San Diego will be broadcast on ESPN as neither franchise has ever won the WFA title. With Sami Grisafe announcing her retirement, drama will be high as she looks for her first-ever championship.