(ST. LOUIS, MO) One year ago, the St. Louis SLAM finished the 2022 regular season with a 4-2 record but failed to qualify for the Women’s Football Alliance (WFA) post-season due to a calculated ratings system that incorporates computerized software, a slide rule, a protractor, and an abacus.
All kidding aside, those last three methods were not a part of the complexion but, nonetheless, the SLAM playoff dreams were dashed.
Fast-forward twelve months and the 20-year-old tackle football franchise won’t have to worry about goofy math for this year’s cycle.
The SLAM steamrolled a 49-6 victory over the Derby City Dynamite Saturday night at St. Mary’s High School and finished the regular season 6-0.
Holding the top rank in the WFA Pro American plateau, St. Louis hosts a conference semifinal game at St. Mary’s June 24. Their opponent, who will be ranked fourth, will be determined sometime next week utilizing the aforementioned ranking system.
Numbers be damned, the SLAM was more than excited about the letter “W” Saturday since they controlled their narrative over the last eight weeks and punched their post-season ticket outright.
“There’s nothing that beats this feeling right now because last year we were in a different space,“ said St. Louis defensive tackle Tay Johnson after the 43-point duke. “I’m so proud of the offense and defense. Together right now. We’re ‘SLAMily,’ so coming back and being undefeated, it means the world to us.”
“It’s a combination of two things,” added SLAM Head Coach Quincy Davis. “One, it’s the team from last year that took the agony of not being able to play in the playoffs and doing something positive with it. And on the flip side, I’m proud of our rookies coming in and accepting the challenge.”
St. Louis multi-weapon Jada Humphrey scored three touchdowns on the night and the defensive unit maintained its streak of not surrendering a point this season.
But one might ask, “Didn’t the Dynamite score six points?” We’ll reveal more about that later and why it’s not a bad thing in the long haul.
After Derby City punted on the game’s opening possession a few minutes in, the SLAM countered with an eight-play, 65-yard scoring drive that was concluded with quarterback Jaime Gaal’s 12-yard touchdown pass to Keyonna Smith with under four minutes left in the frame. Taylor Hay added the PAT kick that made the score 7-0.
In the second quarter, Hay pushed the score to 14-0 by capping the SLAM’s eight-play, 77-yard scoring drive with a three-yard plunge – her fourth of the season – and the PAT kick that followed with 10:24 left in the half.
Meanwhile, the SLAM defense, which consisted of two rotating units in the first half, held the Dynamite at bay and the team regained possession with 2:55 left in the half from their own 22-yard line.
With protection from the offensive line consisting of Caitlin Erickson, Tamikka Brents, Ariana Smith, Marion Ball and Pamela Green, Gaal connected with Humphrey for a 26-yard touchdown pass with 2:30 left in the half.
Hay’s successful kick afterwards pushed the SLAM’s lead to 21-0, which remained the score at intermission.
On the second half’s opening kickoff, Humphrey recorded her second touchdown of the night with a 71-yard return. Hay added the PAT that widened the lead to 28-0.
The SLAM’s primary defensive unit – consisting of Johnson, Mary Altepeter, Mariah West, Jasmine Yandell, Jamie Skinner, Alisha Straws, Stephanie Moore, Kelsie Nesbit, Veronica Smith, Annamarie Magnani and Jennifer Perkins – stopped Derby City’s opening drive of the second half and St. Louis took over possession at the Dynamite’s 42-yard line with 9:22 left in the third quarter.
Their ensuing drive started promising, but three plays deep, Gaal’s intended pass was intercepted by Derby City safety Alicia Meyer and returned 76 yards for a “Pick 6” that resulted in the SLAM’s first points surrendered this season overall – a streak that had reached 22 quarters – that made the score 28-6. St. Louis’ defense did halt the Dynamite’s two-point conversion attempt that followed, yet the team’s ongoing goose had been broken.
Really in hindsight, it’s not negative at all. As impressive and intriguing as the SLAM’s “zero points allowed” storyline had been this month, Davis prefers to have that aspect taken off the squad with the upcoming WFA post-season looming ahead.
“While we were proud to have it, I just didn’t want us to have any kind of shell-shock, whatsoever, in the playoffs,” the head coach said. “It will be emotional enough to be in the playoffs. We didn’t want the added pressure of the defense thinking that they had to keep another team from scoring. Hopefully, that relaxes the tensions and expectations a little bit and we can just focus on the team we’re going to be playing to make sure that we can win.”
The SLAM’s defense continued their stellar play as the quarter progressed and snared great field positioning with six minutes left as a fumble recovery was claimed at the Dynamite’s 26-yard line.
St. Louis quickly scored five plays later as Humphrey recorded her third touchdown of the night with a six-yard romp. Hay’s PAT kick afterwards widened the lead to 35-6.
In the fourth quarter, and unshaken by the earlier interception, Gaal proceeded with the precision that has made the SLAM veteran one of the upper-echelon quarterbacks of the WFA.
A pair of touchdown strikes – a 16-yarder to Smith with eleven minutes remaining and a five-yard bullet to Kerri McMahan one series later – widened the differential.
The SLAM outscored the Dynamite 28-6 in the second half en route to the 49-6 victory and the spotless regular season record.
Gaal finished the night with 15 completions for 217 yards and four touchdown passes.
Humphrey – who topped SLAM rushing with 107 yards off ten carries – leads team scoring with nine endzone trips, thanks to the trifecta of touchdowns collected Saturday night.
Over the next two weeks, St. Louis prepares for the WFA post-season. If they win the hosted Pro American semifinal at St. Mary’s June 24, they will subsequently play for the conference championship at home July 8.
The ultimate mission is to reach the WFA Pro trophy game July 22 in Canton, Ohio and a potential fifth national championship.
“Right now, we’re training for it,” said Johnson. “We’re going straight forward. We have to get through our next two games, but we want to get to the championship. That’s what we’re preparing for and we’re ready for it.”
For more information on the St. Louis SLAM, go to their official website.
By trade, he is a six-time, regional Emmy Award-winning news videographer/editor for KTVI/KPLR-TV. By hobby, he is a writer for Arch City Media, dating back to February 2014. Emphasis is on featuring and promoting local women's sports, but will cover anything that is not reported by traditional media outlets. Also a contributor to local concert reviews.