Accolades continue for champion Chicago Force as squad receives proclamations

The early days of January 2014 proved to be a continuation of the remarkable traction that the Chicago Force have gained during an historic 2013. Earning proclamations from the City of Chicago, County of Cook and the state of Illinois, it was a celebration of their remarkable achievements.

After an undefeated season during Women’s Football Alliance regular season play, the Force capped it off with a national championship victory over the Dallas Diamonds. This historic first title in franchise history was complemented by nine Force players (along with three coaches) that helped the US grab the 2013 IFAF Women’s World Championships.

Chicago Force Owner’s Linda Bache, Tricia Charbonneau and Amanda Malsh receive city and state Proclamations from Alderman Bob Fioretti and Sr. Advisor Mica Matsoff from the Illinois Governor’s Office.

Chicago Force Owner’s Linda Bache, Tricia Charbonneau and Amanda Malsh receive city and state Proclamations from Alderman Bob Fioretti and Sr. Advisor Mica Matsoff from the Illinois Governor’s Office.

Force players were greeted by Alderman Bob Fioretti and Mica Matsoff, a senior advisor from the Governor’s Office. The ceremony also served as an appropriate time to honor the squad with their WFA championship rings.

Dubbed “Chicago’s best kept secret” by Fioretti, the Force were one of three teams based in the Windy City to capture championships. Another female football team captured the Legends Cup, marking the first time that a city has had female football teams capture the WFA and LFL titles in the same year. In between these historic events, Jonathan Toews captained the Chicago Black Hawks to its second Stanley Cup title in four seasons.

Chicago Force 2013 WFA National Championship ring

Chicago Force 2013 WFA National Championship ring

Perhaps the most special aspect of the proclamation ceremony was the fact that remarkable on-field accomplishments were also recognized. Of note, conference awards were bestowed upon Sami Grisafe (offensive player of the year) and Darcy Leslie (defensive player of the year).

Quarterback Sami Grisafe had another banner year, throwing for 4,301 yards and 57 touchdowns (more TD passes than Petyon Manning threw in his record-breaking year). Darcy Leslie continued to serve as a defensive stalwart for the Force posting 96 tackles, of which 28 were for loss. Such contributions resulted in the Force outscoring their opponents by an astounding 771-128 tally.

From a leadership standpoint, recognition was also bestowed upon head coach John Konecki and owner Linda Bache. Konecki earned a unique triple crown as coach in 2013. He would lead the Crete-Monee high school boys’ football team to an Illinois State title. This was followed by serving as the head coach for Team USA in a gold medal effort along with winning the elusive WFA title. His accomplishments should place him on the radar of several NCAA programs.

Bache, a former player with the Force, was named Owner of the Year by the WFA. As the Force have qualified for the postseason in 10 of their 11 seasons in existence, Bache has served as a key component in such success. She also had the privilege of being honored with the team at Wrigley Field in late summer 2013, prior to a Chicago Cubs contest.

Before the 2014 season can begin, there is another unique event to honor the team. A non-profit production titled The Tackle Girls followed the US women’s football team en route to world dominance at the 2013 IFAF Women’s Worlds. In addition, the documentary follows the players back to the US as teammates at the international level become rivals back in the WFA.

Featuring music from Sami Grisafe, the film shall prominently feature several Force players, as their accomplishments are captured on film, preserved for eternity. With the debut set to take place at Times Square during Super Bowl Week, it is a fitting tribute to what is truly Chicago’s best-kept secret. As female football grows into the sporting conversation, there is no question that Windy City football fans shall one day reflect on this remarkable team of wondrous woman and acknowledge that they have not seen a team this dominant since the 1985 Chicago Bears captured the hearts and minds of fans worldwide.

10 Female Athletes that made an inspiring impact in 2013

In alphabetical order, please find ten female athletes that helped to make a tremendous impact in 2013, while advancing the already amazing world of female sport.

Angella Goran, Cycling

Cycling across Canada in hopes of raising funds for wildlife research, she channeled the spirit of other Canadians who have ventured on the road in similar efforts; Terry Fox, Rick Hansen and Ashley Gilbank. Looking to preserve Canada’s natural legacy while looking to educate and provide various education activities on her stops, Goran is a role model to both men and women who have undertaken environmental causes.

Emma Green-Tregaro, Track and Field

While the 2013 IAAF World Track and Field Championships were a lightning rod for controversy due to issues of gay rights, Emma Green-Tregaro made a remarkable statement. Painting her fingernails in the colors of the rainbow as a gesture of support, it made worldwide news. While she was inititally warned it could be in violation of the code of conduct of the world championships, she stood her ground, inspiring men and women of any sexual preference to stand up for their beliefs.

Brittany Griner, Basketball

From the NCAA to NBA Draft speculation to the WNBA, Brittany Griner made national news on numerous stages. While her NCAA career at Baylor did not end on with a Final Four, she graduated as the all-time leading blocker among both male and female basketball players.

Speculation about the NBA Draft sparked rumors that she would become the first female selected. Although it never materialized, she would go first overall to the Phoenix Mercury in the 2013 WNBA Draft. Her debut against the Chicago Sky (which featured second pick overall Elena Delle Donne) featured two slam dunks, the first player to do so in their WNBA debut.

Sami Grisafe, Football

One of the most inspiring sporting stories of 2013 (among men and women), football quarterback Sami Grisafe finished her storied football career in grand style. Having led the United States to a gold medal at the inaugural 2010 IFAF Women’s World Football Championships, she followed it up as the field general for the US in 2013.

Her world gold would be followed up by a remarkable performance with the Chicago Force in the 2013 WFA postseason. Leading her club to their first-ever WFA National Championship, it was a fitting finish to Grisafe’s stellar career. Tackling the next role in her life, a promising musical career, her performance of the Star-Spangled Banner at the IFAF Worlds and at Wrigley Field are pulse-pounding.

Brooke Henderson, Golf

Only 16 years old, Brooke Henderson may become the Tiger Woods of women’s golf. A teen phenom who was recognized as Canada’s amateur golfer of the year for 2013, she was also featured in Sports Illustrated’s Faces in the Crowd segment. Ranked number nine in the world among amateur female golfers, she would place third at the professional Canadian Women’s Open while placing 35 at the LPGA’s Manulife Classic.

Nikki Johnson, Football

One of the greatest quarterbacks in the history of women’s indoor football, Nikki Johnson used her star power to try and improve working conditions in her league. A former intern with NFL Films and a high school sporting legend in Nevada, her solid work ethic and leadership skills set a positive example for teammate and rival alike.

While her requests for health insurance and a more equitable setting in the league resulted in her untimely dismissal, her efforts are similar to Curt Flood in baseball and Ted Lindsay in hockey. Although she will likely return to the WFA (where she first honed her skills), Johnson is a strong, courageous woman whose principles make her a symbol of admiration and determination.

Hilary Knight, Ice Hockey

While Amanda Kessel had an outstanding 2013, in which she won the Patty Kazmaier Award and led the Minnesota Golden Gophers to an undefeated season, Hilary Knight was playing in the ultra-competitive CWHL against some of Canada’s greatest women’s ice hockey players.

With such sterling competition, Knight not only ranked third in league scoring (first among US-born women), but she would become the first American-born player to capture the CWHL’s MVP Award. She would follow it up by leading all players in postseason scoring as the Blades upset the Montreal Stars to capture the Clarkson Cup. A few weeks later, Knight (and Kessel) would beat Canada on their own home ice to capture gold at the 2013 IIHF Women’s World Hockey Championships. Featured on a trading card in the Topps Sochi Winter Games trading card set, her star is on the rise.

Yekaterina Pashkevich, Ice Hockey

A former women’s tackle football competitor in the IWFL, Yekaterina Pashkevich emerged as the feel-good story of the 2013 IIHF Women’s World Hockey Championships. An original member of the Russian national team from 1993, she lived in Boston for several years after the 2006 Torino Winter Games. Making a comeback in hockey, Pashkevitch would capture the hearts and minds of fans 20 years later. As the oldest competitor at the 2013 IIHF Worlds, her acumen and leadership contributed to an emotional bronze medal for the Russian squad.

Winter Venecki, Running

In honor of her fallen father, Winter Venecki and her mother participated in marathons on every continent in the world. Looking to raise funds for cancer research, Venecki’s journey was one of inspiration and hope. Having established her own cause to raise funds, the teenaged Venecki is a great example of the great contributions youth can make to our society.

Serena Williams, Tennis

In a season that saw Williams amass an outstanding win-loss record of 78-4, she solidified her legacy as the greatest female tennis player ever. Her earnings of over $12,000,000 are the highest-ever in women’s tennis history and the fifth highest among both male and female players.

Honorable Mention: Christmas Abbott, NASCAR

As the first female full-time member of a NASCAR racing crew, Christmas Abbott is shattering barriers in traditionally male-dominated fields. Serving with the Michael Waltrip Racing Team, she is a proud member of Clint Bowyer’s pit crew. Able to change two tires weighting 60 pounds each, she paid her dues changing tires for female racer Jennifer Jo Cobb in years past. When not part of the pit crew, Abbott is also a competitor with Team CrossFitInvoke in the CrossFit Mid-Atlantic region.

Honorable Mention: Julie Paetsch, Football and Ice Hockey

One of the most influential women in Canadian sport for 2013, Julie Paetsch helped make history on two different occasions. Competing on defense with the Saskatoon Valkyries of the Western Women’s Canadian Football League, she returned from an injury in-time for the WWCFL title game. Helping the Valkyries to a victory over the Lethbridge Steel, the Valkyries became the first team to win three consecutive WWCFL titles. Of note, she would earn Defensive Player of the Game honors.

A few weeks later, she would contribute to Canada’s silver medal effort at the 2013 IFAF Women’s Worlds. Recognized as Canada’s Player of the Game in the gold medal match against the United States, it would prove to be the beginning of a memorable summer. In late August, she would be selected by the Calgary Inferno in the 2013 Canadian Women’s Hockey League Draft, becoming the first women’s tackle football player taken in CWHL Draft history. In addition, she would score a goal in her debut for the Inferno.

Honorable Mention: Whitney Zelee, Football

Having helped the Boston Militia to a national championship in 2011, Whitney Zelee has emerged as a key member for the WFA franchise. While she has been working tirelessly to help the squad claim a second, her mark on WFA and women’s football history reached unforeseen heights in 2013. As the first player to log 2,000 yards in one season of women’s football, Zelee became a legend in the sport. With several performances of 300+ yards in several matches, her efforts shed a new light on the excitement of women’s football and the growing relevance of the sport.

Sami Grisafe ends on a high note as WFA champion Force honored at Wrigley Field

One of the greatest female quarterbacks in the world, Sami Grisafe made the decision to call it a career. Before she leaves the gridiron for good, Grisafe had one more memorable moment in the world of athletics. Along with her Chicago Force teammates, the club was recognized at famous Wrigley Field, home of baseball’s Chicago Cubs.

Prior to the Cubs match versus the Miami Marlins on September 3, Grisafe had the opportunity to step onto the coveted field and sing the Star Spangled Banner. Iroincally, Wrigley is the first stadium where Grisafe saw a professional sporting event.

Grisafe sings the Star Spangled Banner in front of the Cubs faithful (Still obtained from: YouTube)

Grisafe sings the Star Spangled Banner in front of the Cubs faithful (Still obtained from: YouTube)

As the lead singer for The Sami Grisafe Band, she also had the opportunity to sing the anthem before the gold medal game of the 2013 IFAF World Women’s Football Championship. The Huffington Post called that rendition one of the most inspiring versions they ever heard.

Afterwards, Grisafe was followed by Tricia Charbonneau. The club’s field goal kicker was given the honor of throwing the the game’s ceremonial first pitch. Unfortunately for the Cubs, the Force’s winning ways did not rub off on them, as they were bested by a 6-2 tally versus the Marlins.

Force recognized for their championship on the iconic Wrigley Field scoreboard (Photo credit: Ross Forman)

Force recognized for their championship on the iconic Wrigley Field scoreboard (Photo credit: Ross Forman)

For Grisafe and her Force teammates, this was a terrific opportunity to gain some well-deserved recognition. Ashley Berggren, another Force member is the only female athlete to have her jersey raised at the University of Illinois (where she was Big Ten Basketball Player of the Year in 1997). At the bottom of the Cubs scoreboard in center field, a display congratulating the Chicago Force represented a watershed moment for the club.

Receiving the big league treatment, the Force have a new fan in Cubs co-owner Laura Ricketts, who helped arrange for the pre-game event. Not only did she wear her own personalized Force jersey to the game, but she has even participated in some pre game coin tosses for the club in WFA play.

Force kicker and co-owner Tricia Charbonneau featured in the Chicago Sun-Times (Image by Charles Rex Arbogast/AP)

Force kicker and co-owner Tricia Charbonneau featured in the Chicago Sun-Times (Image by Charles Rex Arbogast/AP)

Of note, this was not the first time this year that a baseball club recognized a great accomplishment in women’s sport. Earlier in the summer, the Boston Red Sox invited the Boston Blades, a women’s hockey team to Fenway Park. Featuring several players that competed at the Vancouver 2010 Winter Games, the Blades were recognized for their Clarkson Cup champion championship.

For the Force, the 2013 WFA championship game was a defining moment in franchise history. Having lost the 2012 WFA championship, the club wanted to prove it was worthy of winning. With the Dallas Diamonds as the last obstacle, the electricity at Balboa Stadium in San Diego was intensifying.

Ashley Berggren and Nani Love (Image obtained from Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/chicagoforce)

Ashley Berggren and Nani Love (Image obtained from Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/chicagoforce)

Having played high school football in California, Grisafe’s final game would bring her back to her home state. After a sparkling season that saw her log 4301 passing yards and 57 touchdowns, Grisafe was definitely the heartbeat of the Force offense. With tremendous drama and anticipation, emotions ran high as both clubs were looking for their first-ever championship.

After Grisafe scored the first touchdown of the game, it would set the tone for the rest of the game. Like John Elway, her final game ended on a championship note while receiving MVP honors. In a convincing 81-34 final, Grisafe shredded the Diamonds defense with an astounding 526 yards and eight touchdowns. The win not only gave Grisafe and the Force their first coveted championship, but it capped off an undefeated season that saw the Force outscore opponents by an astounding 771-128 margin.

Yvette Holt, Sami Grisafe, Tricia Charbonneau, fan holding the WFA National Championship Trophy, Cubs co-owner Linda Ricketts and Linda Bache (far right) with the WFA National Title(Photo by Ross Forman)

Yvette Holt, Sami Grisafe, Tricia Charbonneau, fan holding the WFA National Championship Trophy, Cubs co-owner Linda Ricketts and Linda Bache (far right) with the WFA National Title (Photo by Ross Forman)

After leading the US to its second straight gold medal at the IFAF Women’s Worlds, earning an elusive WFA title, while her band was considered for a Grammy nomination, 2013 shall be a year to remember for the spectacular Sami Grisafe. In addition to her musical ambitions, her career was defined by shattering barriers and ground breaking moments in football (like playing in the first WFA championship in an NFL stadium).

While the WFA has lost a tremendous role model and all-around superstar in Grisafe, her legend will be a building block in establishing a solid foundation for women’s football in America. One of the true originals in women’s sports, Grisafe was more than just an athlete.

Comfortable in her own skin and not afraid to be who she is, Grisafe displayed great courage in publicly disclosing her sexual orientation. In so doing, she proved that the most important thing about women in sport is recognizing them for their athletic ability and character. A winner off the field, she has also established herself as a winner in life, helping to empower and encourage women to follow their dreams.

Elite quarterback Heather Furr looking to win her first-ever LFL Championship

Having pulled off a remarkable upset against the undefeated Seattle Mist, Heather “Rockstar” Furr is looking to stake her claim as the greatest quarterback in the LFL. Playing in the 2013 LFL Championship Game versus the Philadelphia Passion, Furr is looking for her first-ever title.

Coming off a 2012 LFL Canada season where her club team, the Saskatoon Sirens was defeated by the BC Angels in the league’s inaugural title game, Furr has an insatiable hunger to claim the elusive championship.

Scrambling against the Minnesota Valkyrie (Image from: http://www.lflus.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/i-5rT8RJM-XL.jpg)

Scrambling against the Minnesota Valkyrie (Image from: http://www.lflus.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/i-5rT8RJM-XL.jpg)

The highlight of that 2012 campaign was the opportunity to play with rival quarterback Anne “Showtime” Erler of the Green Bay Chill. While Erler took most of the snaps behind center, Furr showed true team spirit by competing at the wide receiver position, emerging as one of the finest.

Ironically, Furr’s path to the 2013 LFL postseason would come in a contest against Erler’s Green Bay squad. With emotions running high, Furr emerged as the victor, leading the Bliss to a 27-18 road victory on August 10.

Getting ready to hand off the ball versus the Las Vegas Sin (Image from: http://www.lflus.com/games/las-vegas-sin-vs-chicago-bliss/attachment/directorleague-photographer-153)

Getting ready to hand off the ball versus the Las Vegas Sin (Image from: http://www.lflus.com/games/las-vegas-sin-vs-chicago-bliss/attachment/directorleague-photographer-153)

Furr’s season is one that has been defined by leadership and character. After a devastating home opener on April 19 at the Sears Centre Arena that saw the three-time defending champion Los Angeles Temptation prevail by a 31-18 tally, the Bliss have gone undefeated. Outscoring opponents by a combined 136-68 score during the unbeaten streak, Furr has shown the poise that makes her a serious candidate for league MVP honors.

Perhaps the most versatile quarterback in the LFL, Furr is also a remarkable weapon in the Bliss’ running game. Heading into the title game, Furr has rushed for 138 yards, averaging 4.5 yards per game. Complemented by four rushing touchdowns, she is capable of turning the tide in her team’s favor for any game.

In addition to her offensive versatility, she is also a force on defense. As a safety, she has logged 23.5 total tackles (18 were solo) along with four interceptions. The opportunity to intercept Philadelphia quarterback Christy Bell in the LFL championship game may be the factor that determines the winner.

Definitely the emotional favorite heading into the big game, her path towards the championship game runs parallel to Sami Grisafe, quarterback of the Chicago Force in the WFA. Both women’s football heroes in the Windy City, their 2012 seasons ended with championship game losses. Like Furr, Grisafe was a long-time elite quarterback working hard to make her championship dreams come true.

In 2013, Grisafe would finally earn a long awaited championship as she led the Force to an undefeated season and the WFA national title. Whether lightning will strike twice with Furr is yet to be determined but there is definitely some strong momentum as the women’s football fans of Chicago have been spoiled by two elite quarterbacks.

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.

Boston Militia and Chicago Force on collision course for highly anticipated playoff clash

While the epic July 20 confrontation consisting of the Boston Militia and Chicago Force shall be one for the ages, there is no question to many fans that this match just might be the real WFA title game. The Conference Championship match between these two undefeated titans harkens back to the early 1990’s of NFL football. Back then, the NFC championship games that featured the San Francisco 49ers and Dallas Cowboys were called by several members of the media (including Sports Illustrated) as the real Super Bowl.

From an offensive perspective, both clubs rely on completely different methods to win games. Boston is a rushing machine, led by Whitney Zelee, the first woman in pro football to register a 2,000-yard season. Having also scored 40 touchdowns, she is able to keep the Militia competitive in any contest.

On the other hand, Chicago is an efficient passing unit, led by the rifle arm of Sami Grisafe, the greatest female quarterback to have never won a WFA title. As the Most Valuable Player of the 2013 IFAF Women’s World Championships, Grisafe led the United States to its second straight gold medal. With a sparkling 42 touchdown passes, no lead is safe against Chicago.

A key component in the success of Grisafe is her remarkable offensive line. Rosalyn Bennett, Tami Engelman, Jamie Menzyk, Dawn Pederson and Becky Thuestad provide protection for a high powered offense that shows no signs of being contained. With such a remarkable presence in front of Grisafe, it provides her with the time she needs to pick apart opposing defenses.

The 84-0 whitewashing that the Atlanta Phoenix suffered at the hands of the Force is testament to Grisafe’s passing skills. Completing 31 of 38 passes, Grisafe scorched Atlanta with 546 passing yards and an astounding 10 touchdown passes.

After Kenyetta Grigby of the DC Divas shredded Boston’s defense for five rushing touchdowns in the conference semi-finals, it provides the Force with a blueprint on how to overpower them. With Grisafe leading such an offensive juggernaut, Boston’s defense may find itself quickly overwhelmed.

In the brief history of the WFA, the rivalry between these two has only added to the drama of the playoffs. This year marks the third consecutive season that they play against each other in the postseason. In 2011, Boston overwhelmed Chicago by a convincing 50-23 score in the WFA title game. Last season, Chicago avenged their loss from 2011 with a nail-biting 35-34 win.

While both franchises employ completely different styles to win games, their success cannot be questioned. The key factor in the rubber match between shall come down to defense. While Boston has allowed more than 100 points during the season, Chicago has allowed only 60.

Chicago uses a man-to-man coverage in their backfield, neutralizing any opponent’s passing game. Boston has managed to overcome any defensive inadequacies with their running game. Regardless of the outcome, this match is destined to be a classic, as some of the biggest stars in the game collide in a match that should provide fireworks that will become the fodder of legend in generations to come.