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.

Force and War Angels make strong impressions in WFA quarterfinal playoffs

As both the Chicago Force and the Central Cal War Angels look to win a WFA title which has eluded them for several seasons, strong yet impressive statements were made in their postseason victories.

Their playoff quarterfinal was a conflict of undefeated teams as they hosted the 9-1 Atlanta Phoenix. With several Force players (including quarterback Sami Grisafe) having helped the United States win the gold medal at the 2013 IFAF Women’s World Championships, the squad was running on all cylinders.

On the strength of 14 touchdowns, Chicago decimated an Atlanta squad that looked mortal. The 84-0 lopsided win was nothing short of a statement. Of note, the defense has only allowed 60 points all season long. With the club looking for its first WFA championship, Chicago is not showing any signs of being intimidated whatsoever.

As their first possession resulted in the game winning touchdown, Chicago showed remarkable confidence. Brandy Hatcher helped get the Force across the field. This was complemented by Jeanette Gray (who played with Grisafe on Team USA at the IFAF Worlds) bringing the squad to Atlanta’s 16-yard line on a 31-yard pass. Grisafe would connect with Ashley Berggren for the touchdown. On the two-point conversion, Mary Choules ran into the end zone as Chicago enjoyed the 8-0 advantage.

While Grisafe impressed with a remarkable 10 touchdown performance, the star of the game might have been Jessica Gray. With 7 touchdown receptions and 334 receiving yards, her abilities may be the key to championship glory on August 3 in San Diego.

Waiting for them in the Conference Championship shall be the Boston Militia. Their match signifies the third consecutive team that these storied franchises will meet in the postseason. Boston bested Chicago by a 50-23 tally in the 2011 WFA Championship game. Last season, the two met in the Conference Championship with Chicago narrowly winning by a 35-34 margin. As both franchises are undefeated this season, defense shall likely emerge as the defining factor for the victorious squad.

Should Chicago qualify for the WFA Title Game this season, their possible opponent could be the Central Cal War Angels. In their playoff quarterfinal, the War Angels had to tangle with the defending WFA champs, the San Diego Surge. Despite the pedigree of being a champion, the Surge ran into some unexpected obstacles.
Boasting one of the best offenses in the league, the Surge ran into a War Angels that was extremely efficient. Managing to score only 14 points, the Surge were stopped twice on goal line stands. LeAndre Smith and Ashley Thiner intercepted Surge passes as their offense that was sputtering throughout the game.

Central Cal quarterback Chantel Wiggins registered four touchdown passes, including three to Jamie Fornal. Lisa King would grab the other touchdown for Central Cal. Another key for the War Angels was the ability of their running back duo Destanie Yarbrough and LaStar Brown. Their successful running attack consumed time on the clock while exhausting the Surge defense. In addition, they earned a rushing touchdown each.

It marks the second consecutive game in which the dynamic duo registered an impressive running performance. Against the Utah Jynx, the two combined for over 300 rushing yards in a 65-6 win during the second round of playoffs.

With an 11-0 mark, the War Angels will compete against the undefeated Dallas Diamonds. Yarbrough and Brown will need to bring their A-game against the Diamonds. With a defense that has allowed less than 100 points, the Diamonds will be prepared to stymie their ground game.

As both franchises look to maintain their momentum in the next round of postseason play, there is no question that they have both have already made an impression. Representing football at its best, the tireless efforts and personal sacrifices of these gridiron heroes is with one goal in mind; a date on August 3 for the National Championship in San Diego.

Boston Militia rolls on as Whitney Zelee earns another 200-yard rushing game

As the 2013 Women’s Football Alliance playoff picture intensifies, a weekend of quarterfinal action results in high scoring affairs. With several undefeated teams still in the chase for the championship, the Boston Militia are looking to stake their claim as the league’s finest franchise.
A grudge match between the Boston Militia and the DC Divas encompassed one of several July 13 conflicts. Earlier in the season, Whitney Zelee ran for over 300 yards against an overwhelmed DC opponent. Looking for redemption, DC took the first lead of the game on a 3-yard score by Kenyetta Grigsby.

Once again, Zelee provided the answer for an undefeated Boston squad not accustomed to trailing in games this season. She would touch the ball on the first play from scrimmage and it was all Boston needed. Zelee would streak into the end zone on a 51-yard touchdown run.

With the momentum quickly shifting in Boston’s favor, Vicky Eddy would pick off DC quarterback Allyson Hamlin. Lining up behind center, Allison Cahill would score on a 10-yard run for the Militia. In addition, she would also run into the end zone for a two-point conversion afterwards.
Facing an eight point deficit, Grigsby put the DC offense on her shoulders. A drive that consumed nine plays would result with Grigsby shredding the Boston defense for the touchdown.

Once again, Cahill would reply for Boston. A drive that only required three plays ended with Cahill running for a seven-yard score. While Boston extended their lead back to eight points, it would not last for long. Facing a pass interference play on the next series of plays, Boston could not answer the Grigsby running attack. She would scamper into the end zone for her third touchdown of the half, as the lead was back to just one point.
Grigsby was not yet finished for the Divas. Having successfully recovered an onside kick, the Divas were back on offense. Employing the same strategy, the Divas handed off the ball to Grigsby, who dashed into the end zone on a 38-yard run.

Before halftime, Boston managed to regain the lead. With the ball on the 31-yard line of DC, Zelee would run to daylight on a 21-yard run as the score was now 29-28 for Boston.

On the first possession of the third quarter, Boston relied on its running game. Complemented by Dorothy Donaldson, Zelee masterfully orchestrated the impressive Boston rushing attack. With the ball on the Divas’ one-yard line, Cahill popped into the end zone as the score was 36-28.

Despite the setback, DC did not panic. Employing their own remarkable running game, Grigsby continued to be the anchor of their offensive attack. Boston continued to struggle in determining how to contain Grigsby. She would continue to punish the defense as she marched into the end zone for her fifth touchdown of the game.

The turning point of the game came on the ensuing kickoff. Boston fumbled the ball and the Divas recovered. Trailing by only two points, the Divas were eager to return on offense and work towards regaining the lead. Much to their dismay, a fumble resulted in Boston regaining the ball. Tiana Liu recovered the fumble in what helped turn the tide in the game.

Zelee would run 45 yards into the end zone, nullifying any attempt at the Divas to get back into the game. With DC trailing by a 44-34 score, the offense played with panic. On their next possession, the club fumbled again as Molly Goodwin recovered the ball for a headstrong Boston squad.
The fumble would prove to be costly as Boston scored another touchdown. With two touchdowns scored off turnovers, Boston had control of the game. A demoralized DC squad was unable to get back into the game.

With 6:50 remaining, Cahill scored again as Boston enjoyed a 24-point lead. She would finish the game with 67 yards, while Zelee had another remarkable showing. She ground out 254 yards, while Tiamfook gained 97 yards. Prevailing by a 58-34 tally, Boston is one step closer towards playing for their third national championship in franchise history.

2013 IFAF Women’s Worlds provide convincing victories in opening days

With the 2013 IFAF Women’s World Football Championships kicking off on July 1, the United States are looking to repeat as world champions. Fans in Vantaa, Finland witnessed several games on the first day, including the beginning of the United States quest towards a golden finish.

Host country Finland had the honor of playing the opening game of the event. They would win by convincing fashion in a 47-0 whitewash of Spain. With the 2013 edition of the Women’s Worlds marking Spain’s debut, the squad endured growing pains.

Contested at ISS Stadium in Spain, Finland jumped to a 16-0 lead after one quarter of play. Finnish quarterback Tiina Salo logged the first touchdown of the game with Janina Virtanen converting the extra point. She would contribute to the second touchdown with a pass to Sari Kuosmanen. Before the first half would expire, Elina Seppala added a score for the 22-0 advantage. Kuosmanen would extend the lead over Spain with her second touchdown of the game.

Facing a 28-0 halftime deficit, Spain was not able to comeback. Jenni Linden scored the initial touchdown of the second half for Finland. In the second half, Jutta Luhtala was handling the extra point conversions for the host Finns.

Linden’s score was followed by Janna-Jemina Seiels who provided Finland with a convincing 41-0 lead. Before the second half would expire, Linden logged her second touchdown of the day as Finland prevailed. Salo was named Player of the Game for Finland, while Raquel Diaz Garcia earned the nod for Spain. Finland’s next opponent is Canada, the defending silver medalist.

In a convincing 84-0 defeat of Sweden (the country which hosted the inaugural Women’s Worlds in 2010), the US set the tone for the remainder of the event. Having never lost a game at the IFAF level, the US has extended their undefeated streak behind three touchdowns by Cassey Brick.

Competing with the San Diego Surge of the Women’s Football Alliance, Brick would log the first touchdown of the game. Adrienne Smith, Odessa Jenkins and Jeanette Gray would follow suit with their own scores to provide the US with a convincing 32-0 lead.

Brick would follow with another touchdown as Sweden was unable to mount an offensive attack. Jenkins would log her second touchdown of the game for the 46-0 advantage as the game was now clearly out of reach.

Quarterback Samantha Grisafe, who competes with the Chicago Force in the WFA, (and is also a recording artist) would run in for a touchdown as the US boasted a 54-0 score. Brick, who played against Grisafe in the 2012 WFA National Championship game, added to the lead for her third and final score of the game.

Remaining touchdowns were scored by Brandy Hatcher, Ashley Berggren and Kathrine Sowers for the 84-0 final. Grisafe was named as Player of the Game for the US while Emma Bendorf was Sweden’s selection as Player of the Game. The US will attempt to extend their undefeated streak with a Fourth of July clash against Team Germany.

On July 2, the German contingent was successful in their contest against Sweden.  Prevailing by a 25-14 score, Susanne Erdman made the difference. She had a career day with 20 carries for a remarkable 217 rushing yards and three touchdowns. While Sweden provided a valiant effort, their offense sputtered throughout the day.

Erdman was recognized as Player of the Game for Germany, while linebacker Frida Er-Terlecki earned the nod for Sweden. With the 0-2 start, Sweden will compete in the contest to determine fifth and sixth place.