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.

Date with destiny at 2013 WFA National Title Game for Chicago Force

While the Chicago Force prepare for their third attempt at capturing the elusive Women’s Football Association National Championship, there is no question that the stakes are higher than ever. With Sami Grisafe retiring after the title game (to be contested on August 3 in San Diego) to focus on her promising musical career, it shall mark the end of an era in women’s football.

Sami Grisafe sings the national anthem prior to the final match USA vs Canada at the 2013 IFAF Women's Worlds (Photo credit Aliisa Piirla/AFP/Getty Images)

Sami Grisafe sings the national anthem prior to the final match USA vs Canada at the 2013 IFAF Women’s Worlds (Photo credit Aliisa Piirla/AFP/Getty Images)

Statistically, Grisafe is the most dominant quarterback of her era. Having helped the United States to consecutive gold medals at the IFAF Womens’ World Championships (in 2010 and 2013), her contribution to the women’s game establishes her as one of the true pioneers of the sport.
Similar to Red Grange or Slinging Sammy Baugh in the early days of the NFL, Grisafe is the marquee player of the nascent WFA. A multiple All-America selection, her contributions at quarterback has represented the heartbeat of the Force offense while providing much-needed exposure for the league.

Competing against the Dallas Diamonds, it will mark a historic championship game as neither club has ever won a title in their franchise histories with the WFA. Despite the outcome, there will be a lot of American pride at the event. A total of 15 members of the US National Team that captured gold at the 2013 IFAF Womens’ World Championships shall be on the field in San Diego on August 3.

Grisafe with the Chicago Force, Image by Ross Forman

Grisafe with the Chicago Force, Image by Ross Forman

Among the Dallas Diamonds competitors who donned the US jersey, the six members include: Brittany Bushman, Odessa Jenkins, Jen Welter, Alberta Fitcheard-Brydson, Kenoris Blackmon and Rachel May. Chicago’s nine fearless females that helped the US capture its second straight gold included Sami Grisafe (who sang the Star Spangled Banner before the Gold Medal Game), Jeanette Gray, Brandy Hatcher, Jamie Menzyk, Elizabeth Okey, Tami Engelman, Dawn Pederson and Ashely Berggren.

The road to the title game consisted of three playoff games where the Force outscored their oppionents by a combined 195-34. Chicago crushed the Cleveland Fusion by a 65-7 score, which was followed by an overwhelming 84-0 decision at the hands of the Atlanta Phoenix. Facing the Boston Militia for the third consecutive season in the playoffs, Chicago emerged with a 46-27 victory.

Having competed in the 2012 WFA National Championship (the first title match held at an NFL stadium), the Force are now accustomed to the pressures of competing on the league’s biggest stage. Having suffered defeat at the hands of San Diego Surge in 2012, the Force came away with a learning experience.

In addition, the Force would land a member of the Surge as a free acquisition in 2013. Jessica Javelet, a key member of the 2012 championship roster made her presence felt in the conference title game versus Boston. Her 183 yard performance, complemented by three touchdowns made the difference as the running game was employed by Chicago in a rain-soaked contest.

Javelet may end up being the free agent acquisition that makes Sami Grisafe’s championship dreams come true. The one component missing from her storied career is a national championship.

After helping the United States claim two gold medals at the IFAF Women’s Worlds, the WFA title would solidify her standing as the greatest women’s quarterback of the last ten years. With quality weapons on offense including Jeanette Gray and Ashley Berggren, the Force’s date with destiny is one that may be a landmark moment in franchise history.

Berggren is one of the most accomplished two-sport stars on her squad. Having set several records as a basketball player at Barrington High School, she would have a legendary career for the University of Illinois.

Not only did she help the squad to a Big Ten title, she was Big Ten Player of the Year in 1997. For her efforts, her jersey was raised to the rafters in 2009. Having coached the Schaumburg girls basketball team to consecutive winning seasons, she is a member of the Illinois Coaches Basketball Hall of Fame. Her coaching wisdom makes her a natural leader on the Force, while helping to ease the burden of pressure off Grisafe.

Having thrown for over 1,000 yards in the postseason, Grisafe has been nothing short of dazzling. Having grown up in California (where Grisafe made history by becoming the first girl to play Division I High School Boys Football in the state), the last game of her career brings her full circle. Her flawless passing game is the key to a highly potent offense that may provide her with the elusive title on which she can end her prized career in story book fashion.

Returning to her home state, the stars are perfectly aligned for a fantastic finish. There is no question that if the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio ever inducts women, Grisafe deserves to be at the top of that list.

Force moves on to title game as they defeat Militia in battle of undefeated teams

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.