2013 a landmark year for female football hero Dr. Jen Welter

As women’s football continues to work its way into the sporting conversation, there are a number of remarkable women helping to shatter barriers and challenge convention. At 5’3”, no one understands that role better than Dr. Jen Welter. Despite being undersized, she would craft a superb legacy in the sport as she was part of the US contingent that captured consecutive gold medals at the IFAF Women’s World Football Championships.

Having honed her athletic skills as a tennis player in her home state of Florida, she would eventually shine as a rugby star with the Boston College Eagles. It would serve as a springboard for a storied career on the gridiron that has consisted of four championships and eight All-Pro selections.

The opportunity to compete with the US at the 2013 IFAF Women’s World Championships has brought Welter a lifetime of new memories to treasure in a year to remember. She would finish as the third leading tackler for the US, her finest performance coming in the opening game versus Sweden. Part of the starting lineup for the game, she would also register two tackles for a loss. Only one of five women for the US contingent to record a sack, it would come against Sweden.

Image by Rashard D. Photography

Image by Rashard D. Photography

During the 2013 Dallas Diamonds season, Welter not only celebrated her tenth season with the club but continued to establish herself as a mainstay on the defense. Competing at the linebacker position (she has also played safety in the past), her 26 tackles tied for third on team with Alex Harvey.

Among those tackles, seven would be for a loss, tying her for fourth with Hanna Saari. Of note, Welter would also register one sack and one touchdown on the season. With one of the finest rosters in the Women’s Football Alliance, it came as no surprise that the Diamonds would qualify for the 2013 WFA National Title Game in San Diego against the Chicago Force. While the outcome did not present Welter with her fifth championship, the event helped to celebrate the women’s game. Considering so many members of the US team were with the Force, the entire contest had a feeling of friendship and admiration.

Her popularity has even reached into other exciting aspects of popular culture. Having helped film the teaser for the new reality show SWAT School, she would even assist with the Emergency Location Scout two days prior to the shoot. That is part of what makes Welter such a remarkable person; always willing to go the extra mile for the greater good.

While Dr. Welter’s future still consists of playing football, there is no question that she is more than able to tackle the world of men’s football. Whether it is at the collegiate or professional level, Welter is a tremendous hero who challenged the odds and overcame obstacles to be one of the finest at her position. The thought of Welter employed as a team counselor or even bringing her acumen to a front office position is one that would complement her intelligence, enthusiasm and love of the game.

Remarkable women’s football talent recognized at 2013 WFA Awards

One of the most historic and exciting seasons in Women’s Football Alliance history ended with the announcement of its League Award winners. With so many remarkable milestones accomplished throughout the season, the hardware heroes were all women that helped transform the game and elevate it to a new level of competition

Postseason honors featured the Most Valuable Player award from the WFA Championship Game. Three players were recognized; quarterback Sami Grisafe and wide receiver Jessica Javelet from the Chicago Force, along with Brittany Satterwhite from the Dallas Diamonds.

Having ended her spectacular career with a championship, Sami Grisafe was the emotional favorite heading into the WFA championship game at San Diego’s Balboa Stadium. She would score the first touchdown of the game and set the tone throughout. Having thrown for over 1,000 yards in the 2013 postseason, her precise passing made the difference as the Force captured their first-ever WFA crown with a convincing 81-34 victory.

Coming off a 2012 title with the San Diego Surge, Javelet would prove to be the best free agent pickup of the offseason. A former field hockey legend (who currently coaches with St. Joseph’s University), she paid remarkable dividends for the Force. In the WFA title game, she would log an incredible 225 receiving yards, complemented by 11 receptions and four touchdowns.

A jubilant Javelet with her Championship MVP award (Image obtained from : http://www.sjuhawks.com/sports/w-fieldh/spec-rel/080713aaa.html)

A jubilant Javelet with her Championship MVP award (Image obtained from : http://www.sjuhawks.com/sports/w-fieldh/spec-rel/080713aaa.html)

Christine Webb of the St. Louis Slam garnered Rookie of the Year honors. Also earning a nod as WFA Second Team All-American, Webb helped the 7-4 Slam to a postseason berth. The club would be eliminated in Week 13 at the hands of the eventual conference champion Dallas Diamonds by a 35-20 score.

Webb would lead all Slam players with 87 tackles, while ranking tenth overall in the league. Her 7 tackles for loss ranked third on the Slam while she
tied for second with 3.5 sacks, respectively.

The New Orleans Mojo were recognized as the WFA’s Rookie Team of the Year. Their first victory in franchise history would come during Week 4 as the Mojo bested the Acadiana Zydeco by a 32-12 tally.

While the team struggled through a 1-7 record in which they were outscored by a 300-38 total margin, there were some strong performances on defense. Allison Bott would lead the expansion franchise with three interceptions.

Sandra Scherberger and Yvette Schubert would emerge as defensive stars. Scherberger led the Mojo with 36.5 tackels, while Schubert was a defensive leader in three categories (tackles for loss, forced fumbles and fumble recoveries). Both would finish the season as All-America selections, with Schubert grabbing First-Team nods and Scherberger earning Second-Team accolades, respectively.

Yvette Schubert was named to the 2013 WFA All-Star Game (Image obtained from: http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/yvette-sandra?c=gallery)

Yvette Schubert was named to the 2013 WFA All-Star Game (Image obtained from: http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/yvette-sandra?c=gallery)

Having led his team to the WFA Championship game, Matthew Russell of the Dallas Diamonds was chosen as WFA Coach of the Year. His greatest legacy of the season may have been the sterling performance of the Diamonds defense. Having allowed only 20 points throughout the regular season, Russell coached the league’s number one ranked defense.

Owner of the Year honors was shared between two individuals; Linda Bache of the WFA Champion Chicago Force and Paul Hamlin of the DC Divas.
American Conference honors featured players from three different teams earning accolades. The one common factor between the three award recipients is that all three were First Team American Conference All-America selections.

Defensive Player of the Year nod went to Tarrah Philpott of the Pacific Warriors. Known affectionately as Tank, Philpott logged another solid season. Ranking third on the Warriors with four sacks and 59 tackles, of which 13.5 were for a loss, she also pulled double duty as a punter. In addition, she forced one fumble while recovering another.

Fundamentally sound, she is one of the rare women in professional football that is a second generation star. Her father, Ed Philpott, was a former competitor in the AFL and NFL with the Boston Patriots and San Diego Chargers.

Quarterback Chantel Wiggins of the Central Cal War Angels took home the Offensive Player of the Year Award. A former tennis star and coach with the Fresno State Bulldogs, she graduated with 63 career wins in 2002.

Former tennis player Chantel Wiggins extended her athletic career in football (Image obtained from: http://www.gobulldogs.com/sports/w-tennis/spec-rel/061406aaa.html)

Former tennis player Chantel Wiggins extended her athletic career in football (Image obtained from: http://www.gobulldogs.com/sports/w-tennis/spec-rel/061406aaa.html)

Ranking tenth in the WFA with a 94.0 passer rating, Wiggins’ 1,648 passing yards was third-best. She displayed great versatility with a storng running game that resulted in 17 rushing touchdowns, which ranked eighth overall.

The highly versatile Odessa Jenkins of the Dallas Diamonds grabbed the American Conference Most Valuable Player Award. Pulling double duty as running back and backup quarterback, she helped the Diamonds to a perfect 10-0 regular season mark.

Odessa Jenkins in action with Team USA (Image by Carey Navarette Photography)

Odessa Jenkins in action with Team USA (Image by Carey Navarette Photography)

Tying for seventh in the WFA with 18 rushing touchdowns, her 93.5 passer rating would rank 11th overall. During the regular season, she compiled 461 passing yards and 401 rushing yards, complemented by an impressive 9.8 yards per carry.

There was very little surprise when the recipients of the National Conference awards were announced. Defensive and Offensive Player of the Year Awards both went to members of the Chicago Force.

Darcy Leslie would earn the Defensive Player of the Year nod while being named First Team National Conference All-America. As she contributed to a defense that only allowed 60 points during the regular season, she racked up 49 tackles, an impressive 14 were for a loss. She would also lead the Force defense in forced fumbles while ranking second in interceptions.

The aspect that made Leslie even more valuable to the Force was her ability to also contribute to offense. Platooning at the running back position, Leslie logged 377 rushing yards and 14 touchdowns, respectively.

Adding another award to her trophy case was First Team All-America Sami Grisafe. The WFA passing yards champion in 2013, she was named Offensive Player of the Year. The Force pivot led all passers with 2,582 yards, 780 yards more than second ranked Lisa Horton of the Pittsburgh Passion.
With an astounding 32 touchdowns, compared to only 3 interceptions, Grisafe led the Force to the number-one ranked offense in the WFA. Receivers
Jeanette Gray and Brandy Hatcher would rank first and second in the WFA in receiving yardage. Having racked up 495 total points, the Force offense averaged 529.4 yards per game.

Whitney Zelee had a season to remember in 2013 (Image obtained from: http://www.bostonmilitia.com/womens-football-roster.aspx?id=99 )

Whitney Zelee had a season to remember in 2013 (Image obtained from: http://www.bostonmilitia.com/womens-football-roster.aspx?id=99 )

As the first woman in professional women’s football history to accumulate a 2,000-yard rushing season, Whitney Zelee from the Boston Militia was a consensus choice. In only ten regular season games, Zelee pounded out 2,326 rushing yards.

Her 37 rushing touchdowns were far and away the gold standard among runners. Atlanta Phoenix running back Launa Sims was second overall with 24 touchdowns. Along with three receiving touchdowns, Zelee’s 40 total touchdowns also ranked first in the league.

Chicago Force ride high octane offense to first-ever WFA National Title

There was an air of electricity throughout San Diego’s Balboa Stadium as Sami Grisafe was entering the final game of her storied career. With the Chicago Force one win away from their first-ever WFA National Championship, the only obstacle left standing in their way was the Dallas Diamonds. Having defeated their first three postseason opponents by a combined score of 195-34, the Force were the favorites.

Photo credit by Derrick Tuscan

Photo credit by Derrick Tuscan

In a battle of undefeated squads, the Force entered the championship game with the WFA’s top-ranked offense, while the Dallas Diamonds boasted the league’s finest defense. Chicago scored 495 regular season points while racking an astounding 529.4 offensive yards per game. In the regular season, the Diamonds defense overwhelmed opponents, allowing only 20 points (compared to 60 for Chicago).

Alex Harvey was the sack leader during the regular season for the Diamonds with 5.5 while Nicole Coffin led the squad in tackles, interceptions and forced fumbles. The featured weapons on offense for the Diamonds were Odessa Jenkins and Brittany Satterwhite.

Jenkins, who helped the US team to a gold medal at the 2013 IFAF Women’s Worlds, led the club with 401 yards. Satterwhite led the Diamonds in combined yards from scrimmage with 813 (287 rushing, 526 receiving). Her 13 touchdowns paced all Diamonds, while Jenkins was close behind with 10.

Chicago’s offensive attack was well-balanced. While Sami Grisafe posted remarkable numbers with 2582 passing yards and 32 touchdowns, the running game was formidable. Employing a running back by committee, Mary Choules, Brandy Hatcher and Darcy Leslie combined for 1,457 rushing yards. The defense was anchored by the likes of Darcy Leslie (who pulled double duty with 49 tackles), Angel Smith (20 tackles for loss and five sacks) and Kim Marks, with eight sacks and three fumble recoveries, respectively.

Having competed in the 2012 WFA championships (the first contested in an NFL stadium), the Chicago Force came up short against the San Diego Surge by a 40-36 tally. Looking for redemption, the game had an emotional tone for Grisafe as her career came full circle.

Growing up in California, Grisafe would be the first female to play quarterback for a high school game in the state. With the additional momentum of having led the United States to the gold medal at the 2013 IFAF Women’s Worlds in Finland, Grisafe was looking to add one more accolade to an impressive career.

Taking matters into her own hands, Grisafe would score the first touchdown of the game. With Charbonneau connecting on the extra point, Chicago enjoyed a 7-0 advantage. It would not take long for Chicago to add to their lead.

Jessica Javelet, looking for her second consecutive WFA title would add to Chicago’s lead with a touchdown as 4:58 remained in the quarter. Two minutes and 52 seconds later, Chicago added to their lead with another touchdown for a commanding 21-0 lead.

Looking to get back into the game, Dallas would reply with their own touchdown as 29 seconds remained in the high scoring quarter. A fifty-yard touchdown run placed Dallas on the scoreboard as the period expired with a 21-6 score.

Facing a 15-point deficit, Dallas tried to build on the momentum of their first touchdown but it was not meant to be. WFA All-American Jeanette Gray scored a touchdown as the Force extended their lead again. Merely two minutes and 18 seconds after Gray scored, Chicago was back on the scoreboard as Dallas faced a 36-6 setback.

While the top-ranked Dallas defense was overwhelmed by the rifle arm of Grisafe, the offense tried to keep the squad competitive. Scoring a touchdown with 11:44 remaining in the half, the Diamonds cut the Force’s lead to a 36-12 margin.

Before the half would expire, Chicago would respond with four touchdowns. Despite the best efforts of Dallas, including another touchdown with 3:36 left, the Force went into halftime with an insurmountable 62-20 lead.

Although Chicago managed only one touchdown in the third quarter, Dallas was overwhelmed and dejected. In the fourth, the squads would exchange touchdowns before Chicago put the game on ice with the final touchdown of the game. With 2:56 left, Chicago would make it an 81-34 advantage, which would also stand as the final score.

Quarterback Sami Grisafe and wide receiver Jessica Javelet from the Chicago Force were recognized as Chicago’s MVP’s in the contest. Grsiafe threw for an eye-opening eight touchdown passes while Javelet was impressive with 11 receptions for 213 yards and three touchdown receptions. Brittany Satterwhite from the Dallas Diamonds earned her team’s MVP award.

Having scored 276 points in four postseason contests, the Force were an offensive juggernaut, pounding their opponents into submission. Jessica Gray was also an essential component of the Force offense in the championship effort; 12 receptions, 213 yards and three touchdown receptions represented another banner day for the remarkable Gray.

Mary Choules, who platoons at the running back position with Darcy Leslie, Brandy Hatcher and Javelet contributed with 19 carries, 104 rushing yards and two rushing scores, complemented by one receiving TD.

In Grisafe’s swan song, she displayed the greatness that made her the WFA’s elite pivot for over half a decade. While she will prove to be a tough act to follow, her presence helped the league grow by a quantum leap. As she tackles a singing career, there is no question that she left a memorable impression on women’s football.

As head coach John Konecki (who also coached the US to gold in 2013) sees a future that brings with it the challenge of finding a new field general, he can find solace in the fact that with such a talent-heavy Force squad, the transition should be an easier one. For now, being able to celebrate a long-fought, hard-earned championship and share it with the loyal fans of Chicago provides Konecki and the franchise with its own rewards.