(ST. LOUIS, MO) For the St. Louis SLAM’s Kaylee Neutzling, her biggest football adversary Saturday night arguably was her own gear.
Numerous times during her team’s 31-14 win over the Minnesota Vixen at St. Mary’s High School, her chin strap would unsnap, which would eventually get re-secured by many on and off the field.
“Yes, it was!” joked the sixth-year multi-specialist. “My team mates couldn’t put it on for me right.”
It certainly didn’t hamper her individual output in the anticipated showdown between the pair of undefeated teams in the Tier II division of the Women’s Football Alliance (WFA).
Neutzling recorded a pair of touchdown catches, returned a punt for a score, kicked a 26-yard field goal and wreaked havoc at linebacker.
When looking back on her helmet hardware, the future sage advice might read, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!”
And that could be said for numerous aspects of the SLAM’s 17-point win against the Vixen. The usual combination of high-end defensive play and a churning offense pushed the team’s record to 6-0.
“We knew what Minnesota was going to bring,” Neutzling said. “Everything was hyped up with social media and stuff. Everyone was going back and forth.”
With that hype, St. Louis played smooth operator prior to the first snap. Although they won the coin flip, they elected to defer and start on defense first.
That strategy paid off as the SLAM’s mighty unit of Neutzling, Raven Williams, Tiffany Pugh, Pamela Green, Keyonna Smith and a host of others stifled the Vixen’s highly-touted ground game and forced a change of possession at the Minnesota 34.
“It way key,” reflected Neutzling on the early effort. “The first stop was very important. It set the tone of the game.”
It did not take long for the hosts to break their goose egg as quarterback Jaime Gaal connected with Neutzling on the second play from scrimmage, a 20-yard touchdown pass at the 10:51 mark. Danielle Thompson added the PAT kick for the SLAM’s 7-0 advantage.
Later in the frame, the Vixen was forced to punt on fourth down from mid-field. Neutzling snared the punt at the eight-yard line and proceeded to gallop 92 yards for the touchdown return with 1:34 left. Thompson added the kick afterwards for the SLAM’s 14-0 lead.
“I actually was going to hit the sidelines at first,” Neutzling remembered. “As soon as I saw the hole, I hit the hole. I knew as soon as I hit that, I was clear.”
Both teams failed to score for the remainder of the half and the SLAM maintained their two-touchdown lead at the intermission break.
The aforementioned strategy of deferring the opening kickoff played to the SLAM’s benefit early in the third quarter as Gaal connected with Neutzling three plays in and the receiver’s 53-yard touchdown catch at the 13:17 mark resulted in St. Louis’ 21-0 lead after Thompson kicked the PAT successfully.
As the quarter progressed, the Vixen finally found the offensive groove that had been lacking in the first half. A solid ground game, paced by powerful running back Grace Cooper, carried over into the fourth quarter as Minnesota found themselves in the red zone and had a fourth and goal situation from the five yard line.
In the ensuing play affected by a low snap, quarterback Emily Evans was sacked by SLAM linebacker Brooklyn Devitt and shut out was retained. More importantly, it deflated Minnesota’s momentum.
“She made all the stops (late) on that drive,” Neutzling said. “She was awesome.”
Neuzling added a 26-yard field goal at the 6:27 mark that made the score 24-0.
Minnesota finally got on the scoreboard as Evans connected on a 35-yard end zone strike with Kaiya Sygulla with 2:47 left in the game and Cooper’s after touchdown plunge shored the score to 24-8.
The SLAM engineered a three-play 42-yard touchdown series deep that was anchored by the steady offensive line of Kim Kinsella, Tammie Moore, Caitlin Erickson, Marion Ball and Toni Washington. Danielle Price’s 37-yard reverse scamper with 2:12 left pushed the team to the 30-point plateau and with Thompson’s perfect night of kicking held intact, St. Louis had amassed a 31-8 lead.
Minnesota claimed a late-touchdown with under ten seconds left, a one-yard plunge by Jeanette Nelson, but the SLAM claimed their sixth straight duke with the 31-14 final.
Neutzling ended the evening with a pair of catches for 81 yards while Price topped the rushing with 59 yards off of three carries.
St. Louis concludes their regular season at home in two weeks when they host the Columbus Vanguards (5-1) on June 8.
“We have things to fix,” Neutzling assessed. “Staying low on tackling. Staying focused when we are tired. We have very awesome coaches and they’ll be sure to do whatever we need to do to prepare.”
For more information on the SLAM, visit their official website.
SLAM INDIVIDUAL STATISTICS (UNOFFICIAL)
PASSING: Gaal 5-20, 105 YDS, 2 TDs, 1 INT
RUSHING: Price 3-55 1 TD, Altepeter 5-32, Hay 8-31, Vinson 3-22, Watkins 3-18
RECEIVING: Neutzling 2-81 2 TDs, Speckhals 1-14, V. Smith 1-6, Watkins 1-4
KICKING: Thompson 4-4 PATs, Neutzling 1 FG
By trade, he is a six-time, regional Emmy Award-winning news videographer/editor for KTVI/KPLR-TV. By hobby, he is an announcer and digital content producer for St. Louis-based Arch Rival Roller Derby. Also a webcast announcer for post-season roller derby tournaments on wftda.tv. Yep, this Illinoisan primarily writes about derby, covering Arch Rival, the St. Chux Derby Chix and the STL GateKeepers men's league. He also writes about St. Louis SLAM Women's Football, St. Louis Lions women's soccer and other sports topics.