Home Editor's Picks SLAM Football Ready For Saturday’s WFA Tier II Title Game

SLAM Football Ready For Saturday’s WFA Tier II Title Game

by Brian Ledford

The St. Louis SLAM women’s professional tackle football franchise has maintained a primary online objective this season.

In the team’s own self-scripted, social media missive, it reads, “#3peatwithanintermission.”

Photo Credit: Brian Ledford

The Gateway City-affiliate of the Women’s Football Alliance (WFA) that hoisted a national trophy in July 2017 was inactive for the entire season that followed, thus the SLAM never rightfully defended their title.

What stung worse was the fact they were at the time back-to-back champs within the League’s Tier II Division. In 2016 and 2017, the squad was a powerhouse with a combined record of 17-3 and a pair of championship rings.

Conversely in 2018, they were nowhere to be found on the field and the future was bleak for the faction first founded in 2003.

Photo Credit: Brian Ledford

Fast-forward to the team’s preliminary meetings and tryouts earlier this calendar year under newfound ownership. Even after the layoff, the nucleus of the team was still intact. Shaking the rust off early and feeling a re-energized attitude, St. Louis proceeded to accumulate an undefeated regular season record.

After picking up a pair of dominant June wins in the post-season, the SLAM now has the opportunity to win their third title in the last four WFA seasons this weekend and fully complete their hashtag goal.

St. Louis (10-0) meets the Detroit Dark Angels (8-2) Saturday at the WFA Tier II Championship game held at the Colorado School of Mines in Golden, Colorado. Kickoff is set for 12 pm MDT (1 PM St. Louis time).

Photo Credit: St. Louis SLAM Instagram

“We’re very excited, especially those who have played in the past,” said SLAM quarterback Jaime Gaal. “We didn’t want to just ‘return’ this season, we wanted to pick up right where we left off.”

The SLAM reached the finale with their dominant 41-0 home victory over the Mile High Blaze in the American Conference title game two Saturdays ago at St. Mary’s High School.

Gaal’s 14-yard touchdown pass to receiver Danielle Price early set the tone for the inevitable onslaught. The SLAM held a 21-0 advantage at intermission and never looked shaky throughout.

The backfield tandem of Candice Watkins and Taylor Hay collectively accumulated 235 yards on the ground with a solo score each. The duo was protected by the offensive line of veterans Kim Kinsella, Tammie Moore, Caitlin Erickson, Marion Ball and Toni Washington.

Photo Credit: St. Louis SLAM Instagram

“Especially as of late, our offensive and defensive lines have been amazing,” said Gaal of the front line. “Everything starts with them, and they’ve done a great job setting the tone.”

Meanwhile the SLAM’s defensive unit, paced by Keyonna Smith, Tiffany Pugh, Kaylee Neutzling, Raven Williams, Pamela Green, Jamie Skinner, Torii Davis, Kamilah Russell, Veronica Smith and a host of others, posted the unit’s fourth on-field shutout of the season.

St. Louis’ kicking game was also on point as place kicker Neutzling claimed a pair of lengthy field goals and Danielle Thompson kept her PAT streak intact (35-35).

The SLAM will be facing a team this Saturday that is super-pumped to be reaching their first-ever trophy game.

Detroit Dark Angels notched a 34-33 road overtime win against Pittsburgh Passion at the WFA Tier II National Conference championship two Saturdays ago.

Photo Credit: Detroit Dark Angels Facebook

“The emotions were all over the board,” reflected Detroit co-captain Jacquie Bennington. “We were all just so happy. There were many tears of joy and hugs amongst teammates who have been fighting to get to this point for years now. It was just an overwhelming sense of accomplishment.”

The ninth-year squad finished last season 5-3 and narrowly missed the Tier II post-season. The octet of victories in 2019 certainly set new heights and two straight wins within the National Conference bracket gives the team extra oomph.

“As a captain on and off the field, I always make sure that each player who may be going through a tough time is taken care of,” said Bennington of the team’s positive mindset this season. “Even if not I’m checking in on my teammates, we’re a family so I like to make sure we are all in a good mental space which then translates to the field.”

The offense is paced by hard-charging running back Tatyhana Pauling, who has close to 1,500 yards on the ground this season while posting 16 touchdowns. Dual threat Kaci Cunningham (two TD runs and catches) also supplies a boost in offense. Quarterback Maddie Hudkins had also plunged forward for scores as well.

At linebacker, Bennington helps propel Detroit’s  defensive unit – defined as “The Darkside” – alongside Diana Leneway, Clarissa Lewis, Mikayla Hilton, Ashley Andrews and a host of others. The unit has held opponents to a solo touchdown or under in seven of ten games this season.

Bennington says her squad has been reviewing St. Louis footage in preparation.

“Our defense just has to stay alert to (the SLAM’s) blocking and protect themselves while dominating their offense,” the co-captain said. “We are coming into this game expecting anything and everything and we will adjust accordingly.”

Conversely, Gaal knows that the Dark Angels plan on giving the SLAM a mighty challenge when they are in possession.

“I mainly focus on the other team’s defense, but I know that they’ll use anything and everything that they can to try and win,” she said. “I’ve seen some things online, and I’d say they’re pretty hungry.”

Gaal is accurate. Detroit would claim their inaugural WFA title with the duke and, in the process, silence a team that has been very vocal about their quest to reclaim a trophy.

“Personally, I would be over the moon,” the Dark Angels’ Bennington said if her squad was victorious. “This is my sixth year and I’ve put in so much blood, sweat, tears, energy, and time into this team that it would be the ultimate icing on the cake this season to win it all!”

Conversely, the SLAM would complete an important chapter in the storied history as the phoenix-like rise this season culminates with a fourth national title.

“To me, winning the championship makes it all worth it – the workouts, practices, late nights, sacrifices,” Gaal said. “Our team is a family and we love football, but in the end our goal is always to win a championship.”

The SLAM departs today for Colorado and still seeks donations to help aid in the cost of travel. Visit their GoFundMe page and be a part of the potential three-peat with an intermission.

Live online coverage of the WFTDA Tier II Title game can be seen AT THIS LINK.

Arch City Media will have a full recap posted Saturday.

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