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.
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.
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.