(CANTON, OH) Heading into Saturday’s Women’s Football Alliance (WFA) Pro Championship game between the St. Louis SLAM and the four-time defending champion Boston Renegades, all in attendance and those watching on ESPN2 knew that one of these two talented teams was going to become the most-decorated franchise within the sport.
After sixty-minutes of intense play between the unbeatens at Tom Benson Field, that designation is going to Beantown.
This was the result of the Renegades’ 35-7 trophy win that resulted in the squad’s fifth straight title.
Trailing early, Boston (9-0) scored 35 unanswered points in the triumph that extended the Renegades current winning streak to 40 victories.
St. Louis finishes their season as the WFA Pro American Conference champs and a record of 8-1.
Considering the amount of talent and depth from both combatants, and the tight battle that was displayed in the first half, already projecting a potential re-match next year in Canton is not that far of a stretch.
Boston – who came into the contest with the WFA Pro’s top-ranked offense (60 PPG) – was held to minimal yardage in the first quarter, thanks to the SLAM’s defensive unit consisting of Tay Johnson, Jasmine Yandell, Brooklyn Devitt, Mary Altepeter, Kaylee Neutzling, Kelsie Nesbit, Keyonna Smith, Mariah West, Alisha Straws, Katelynn Hartman-Geier and co-captain Jamie Skinner.
As a result, the showdown was scoreless heading into the final minute of the first quarter as the SLAM started their second possession of the contest from their own 21-yard-line.
What occurred next certainly opened eyes as the SLAM churned a five-play, 79-yard scoring drive that resulted in the deadlock finally being broken.
SLAM quarterback Jaime Gaal hit Nesbit with a 10-yard pass to launch the stretch and then co-captain Taylor Hay added a pair of runs that resulted in another St. Louis first down.
With holes being opened by the SLAM offensive line of Caitlin Erickson, Ariana Smith, Marion Ball, Pamela Green and Tamikka Brents, running back Jada Humphrey pushed the ball to midfield with an eight-yard scamper.
With the next play from scrimmage, Humphrey went to the pay window with a 51-yard touchdown romp scored with 8:40 left in the first half. Hay added the PAT kick and the SLAM possessed a 7-0 lead.
But it didn’t take long for the Renegades to respond. A ten-play, 53-yard drive was the comeback and with 3:41 left in the half, veteran Boston quarterback Allison Cahill connected with Stephanie Pascual for a 23-yard touchdown reception. With Vanessa Baer’s PAT kick that followed, the score was tied 7-7.
The SLAM ensuing possession saw them start from their own 22, but two plays deep, Renegades’ linebacker Darcy Leslie intercepted an intended Gaal pass and returned it to the St. Louis 11.
Boston grabbed their first lead of the contest two snaps later as Cahill hit Chante Bonds from ten yards out for the gunslinger’s second endzone strike within 90 seconds. Baer’s kick afterwards pushed the Renegades’ lead to 14-7.
St. Louis staged a late-drive to potentially snare needed points before intermission and place kicker Kerri McMahan attempted a 41-yard field goal with no time left, but the ball fell short of the cross bar.
The SLAM started the second half with opening possession and cobbled a sustainable drive but was not able to post points, resulting in the Renegades taking over possession from their own 35 six minutes deep into the third quarter.
Boston then produced its most impressive – and arguably pivotal – drive of the contest, an eight-play, 65-yard stretch that was punctuated by Tytti Kuusinen’s three-yard endzone run with 5:50 left in the frame. Baer’s successful kick afterwards pushed the defending champions’ lead to 21-7.
With this ongoing momentum, Boston’s defense started to rise to the occasion and quickly put the halt on the SLAM’s next possession.
The Renegades tacked on another short-yardage, red zone strike that pushed the score to 28-7 with :35 left in the quarter, thanks to Ruth Matta’s seven-yard scamper.
To their credit, the SLAM refused to wave the white flag in the fourth quarter but the differential was impossible to whittle down due to the opponent’s stubborn defensive unit.
The Renegades punctuated scoring with Latoya Saulters’ six-yard touchdown run with 1:40 remaining.
Boston blanked St. Louis in the second half, 21-0, en route to their 35-7 WFA Pro championship victory, the franchise’s fifth in their eight years of operation.
Although the results in Canton were not what the SLAM preferred, just knowing that they were in the trophy game outright and staying competitive against a dominant legacy provides incentive during the off-season.
Time will fly by and before one knows it, tryouts will be held in preparation of the SLAM’s 21st season.
Safe money says that there will be a lot of returning players next Spring that craves that “fifth ‘ship.”
For more information on the 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.