By Kyle Wescott, MyWSports
PITTSBURGH — July 24, 2017 — They say the third time is a charm. For the Dallas Elite, they hoped it wasn’t just luck they would take home from their third straight appearance in the national championship game. They lost their previous two championships appearances by scores of 30-28 and 28-26, both against the D.C Divas. The Boston Renegades stood in their way this time, a team making their first appearance in the national championship since 2014, when the Boston Militia beat the San Diego Surge 69-34.
The Elite entered the game with a record of 8-0 and crushed the San Diego Surge, 63-7, to be the American Conference representative. Prior to the national championship game, the Elite defense had only given up seven points all season. The Renegades battled to a 9-0 record and topped the Chicago Force, 47-33, to win the National Conference title. The two undefeated powerhouses were set to collide during Championship Weekend in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania for W Bowl II.
According to the Massey Ratings, Boston had the highest strength of schedule in 2017, whereas Dallas had the 22nd highest. According to the Massey Ratings, Boston entered as the top seed and Dallas was the 6th seed in Division 1. Also, According to the Massey Ratings, Dallas was the five point favorite. However, those predictions were wrong and football fans all know that the game is played on the field, not on paper, not in ratings.
What may be lost on this game in as we look back at the historic event, is just how dichotomous the play was from both teams. The Elite defense started off red hot, shutting down the Renegades on three plays and forcing an early punt. The snap went over the punter’s head and Dallas took over on the Boston 13 yard line. On the first offensive snap, Odessa “OJ” Jenkins scored to give Dallas the early 6-0 lead.
The Dallas defense continued to shine early, after a bad kickoff gave the Renegades the ball in Dallas territory, the defense forced another Boston turnover. On the first play of the Dallas drive, Jenkins found a gap from her own 23 and ran 77 yards for her second touchdown on two carries, giving the Elite a 12-0 lead.
After the game, we asked Head Coach and Running Back Jenkins if the first two touchdowns were important to calm her team’s nerves and to send a message to the Renegades. Jenkins said “We needed to establish the run game, knowing the backs they have, who can cover sideline to sideline. We had to get in the box, so we came out and we rolled the dice. We figured our bigs could push them around a bit and they did, we came with the power game and they didn’t adjust right away.”
We asked Boston Renegades defensive back Vicky Eddy about the first quarter as well and she said “they caught us off guard with some of the shifting they did. There’s a couple of people we wanted to be strong side and they kept switching the side on us.”
Turnovers killed the Renegades in the first quarter. On the next Renegades possession, they elected to go for it on 4th down again, but the pass was knocked down by Elizabeth Landry. Right away, Jenkins and the Elite made the Renegades pay for the turnover with a 35 yard run to the Boston nine yard line. A couple plays later, Jessica Gerhart completed a six yard pass to Umeki Webb for the third Dallas touchdown in the first quarter, giving Dallas a 19-0 lead at the end of the first quarter.
After another Boston three and out, Dallas Wide Receiver, Elizabeth Landry took a reverse on the first possession of the second quarter 84 yards for an Elite touchdown, extending the lead to 25-0. Dallas continued to put pressure on the Renegades. Boston again turned the ball over on downs, giving the ball back to the Elite at their 28 yard line. Dallas used the next drive to control the ball and run the clock, with a 77 yard, eight minute drive, capped off by a 14 yard run by Tiffany Hill to push the score to 31-0. Although the Dallas Elite now sat 32 minutes away from the championship and leading by 31 points, the game was about to change.
Allison Cahill and the Boston Renegades were about to flip the script. With under two minutes to play in the first half, the Renegades turned to the passing game. With three quick passes, Boston marched the field, then Cahill hit Emily Beinecke for a 37 yard touchdown. Cutting the lead to 31-7 at halftime.
Whatever was said in the Boston locker room during halftime, it was clear, they were not going to go away quietly. Boston started the second half with an onside kick, and recovered the ball at the Dallas 47 yard line. 16 seconds later, Cahill hit Adrienne Smith with a 47 yard bomb to make it 31-14. Defenses traded stops for the remainder of the third quarter. One play that could have turned into a disaster was with under two minutes in the quarter, the Renegades were set to punt the ball, but the snap went over the kickers head to the goal line, she regrouped the ball and got the kick off, but the Elite were called for a roughing the kicker penalty, giving the Renegades a first down.
The Dallas defense took a deep breath and started fresh again to start the 4th quarter. Just 8 seconds into the quarter, the Elite intercepted a Cahill pass at their own 39 yard line. The Elite offense however may have gotten too fancy, as they tried another reverse play in the red zone, the exchange was fumbled and Jessica Penta of the Renegades fell on the loose ball.
The Renegades quickly passed their way down the field completing passes of 21 yards to Smith, 27 yards to Stephanie Pascual, and then a 23 yard touchdown to Smith, to close the lead further, to 31-21. Boston kept the momentum on their side of the field, kicking a beautiful onside kick that was recovered once again by Penta.
We asked Angellica Grayson of the Dallas Elite after the game if there was any worry that Boston would finish the comeback and she said “they got us a couple times on the onside kicks, but our motto was always “no plays off, hit first, assault.” Dallas definitely continued to hit. On the other sideline, Renegade Vicky Eddy said the feeling was one of belief; “We’ve been in some dog fights this year, so there was never a doubt in our minds that we couldn’t get back in this game.”
For a vast majority of the second half, it was clear that the Renegades were going to use the arm of Cahill to make their comeback. What we didn’t know from the press box was that Dallas had lost their top two cornerback to injury and Jenkins was playing both sides of the ball and Jamie Fornal was playing cornerback as well and as Jenkins said after the game “Jamie did a great job filling in, but she hadn’t even played there in practice.”
The final six minutes were like the dream of every football fan. In a 10 point ball game, both teams would threaten, both teams would make incredible stops. First, Boston drove into the red zone, only to be shut down by the Dallas secondary. Next, Dallas on 4th and short tried to punch it through the line with their fullback Amber Kimbrough, but she was stuffed at the line of scrimmage. Lastly, the Renegades tried to make their final comeback, but Eshombi Singleton intercepted the Cahill pass and returned it to the 30 yard line to end the game.
After the game, we asked Eddy how she was feeling about the Renegade performance and holding the Elite scoreless for the entire second half. “I’m walking off the field proud of the way we played and our defense, we came out awful, and it would have been easy for us to cower and just go through the motions, but we came up with some big stops at the end.”
This was a historic win for the Dallas Elite, not only to win the National Championship, but to quiet the critics that say they can’t beat the National Conference teams. Jenkins told us after the game “people are going to break down our wins, break down your losses, but they can’t take away that we’re national champions.”