Renegades Fend Off Cleveland Fusion 24-20

Saturday, May 16, 2015

MAPLE HEIGHTS, Ohio — In a highly anticipated rematch of last season’s National Conference quarterfinals matchup, the Boston Renegades foiled a fourth quarter rally by Cleveland to fend off the Fusion 24-20.

The Renegades’ offense started the game quickly. On the first play from scrimmage, Quarterback Allison Cahill connected with wide receiver Adrienne Smith for a 25-yard pass completion. Running back Asia Asantè followed on the next play with a 12-yard rush. But after eventually driving down to the 5-yard line, the Renegades were pushed back to the 11 by Cleveland, and Boston settled for a 28-yard field goal by Brooke Goodman.

What ensued after Boston’s opening drive was a staunch defensive battle. The Fusion’s offense was able to move the chains, but it wasn’t until early in the second quarter when they had their first scoring chance of the game. Cleveland quarterback Keri Palma completed a pass to wide receiver Maria Jackson for an apparent 29-yard touchdown. A penalty negated the play, and the Fusion did not get a close look at the end zone for the rest of the half.

Similarly, the Renegades’ offense struggled against the league’s 3rd ranked defense for much of the first half. Late in the second quarter, Boston forced a Fusion punt from deep in their own territory, resulting in good field position for the Renegades’ final possession before halftime. The Renegades built some momentum on two carries for 17 yards by Asantè and a 21-yard reception by wide receiver Kathryn Tylander. It appeared that fullback Kate Meichkowski made a successful dive into the endzone as time expired, but the officials marked her down short of the goal line and the score remained 3-0 at halftime.

Halftime adjustments and likely fatigue experienced by the defensive units of both teams resulted in an offensive slugfest in the second half.

After forcing a fourth down on Cleveland’s drive to open the second half, Boston caught a break when the snap on the punt attempt was mishandled, giving the Renegades possession at the Fusion’s 33 yard line. On the ensuing drive, Cahill converted a fourth down with a 21-yard completion to tight end Emily Weinberg. Three rushes by Asantè put Boston into the end zone, and a successful PAT gave the Renegades a 10-point advantage.

Cleveland struck back immediately. After a 25-yard rush by running back Mercedes Ephraim, the Fusion were helped along by two penalties called against Boston. Palma rushed for a touchdown from 11 yards out and the extra point kick shaved the Renegades’ lead back to three points, 10-7.

Following a 25-yard kickoff return by Adrienne Smith, Boston responded on their next possession with a 54-yard drive capped by a 39-yard touchdown reception by Tylander to put Boston ahead 17-7.

Cleveland established good field position on the following kickoff with a 34-yard return into Renegades territory. But three plays later, Boston linebacker Jessica Penta forced a fumble which was recovered by teammate Deanna Walsh. The Renegades’ were unable to capitalize on the turnover, but they forced Cleveland to punt again, taking possession once more just before the end of the 3rd quarter.

A 45-yard touchdown reception by Adrienne Smith at the start of the 4th quarter put Boston ahead 24-7, seemingly breaking the game open, but Cleveland’s stout defense held the Renegades scoreless for the rest of the game, giving their offense the chance to mount a comeback. The Fusion responded with a drive capped by a 20-yard touchdown reception by Maria Jackson. A successful extra point kick made the score 24-14.

After forcing the Renegades to punt on the following series, the Fusion again marched down the field and scored a touchdown on a reception by Jackson, this time of 26 yards. Kicker Lauren Acker’s extra point attempt was blocked however, leaving a four-point margin, 24-20.

After recovering an onside kick attempt, the Renegades’ offense took the field to put the game away. With just under four minutes remaining, rushes by Asantè kept the clock moving, and a clutch 20-yard reception by tight end Emily Weinberg moved Boston into the redzone. Asantè rushed once more for what would have been crucial first down, but she lost possession of the ball while being tackled and the Fusion recovered the fumble at their own 10 yard line.

With 90 yards to go and two minutes remaining, Cleveland continued to feed their top receiver Jackson who caught three passes for 36 yards on the drive. Palma also helped her own cause, scrambling twice for 28 yards during the drive. The Fusion had driven all the way to Boston’s 29-yard line. It was then, with less than 30 seconds remaining, that Boston linebacker Jessica Penta collected a devastating and timely 6-yard sack. With the clock spinning down and no timeouts remaining for the Fusion, Cleveland predictably abandoned their rushing attack. The Fusion’s final drive ended when a desperate fourth down pass attempt by Palma was intercepted by Boston linebacker Vicky Eddy with only 8 seconds remaining.

Boston’s victory lifted their record to 2-1 on the season and is the only blemish thus far on the Fusion’s record of 4-1.

Box Score

Maple Heights High School, Maple Heights, Ohio. 1 2 3 4 F
Boston Renegades 3 0 14 7 24
Cleveland Fusion 0 0 7 13 20

Statistics

Passing

Allison Cahill – 15/25, 208 yds, 2 TD, 1 INT

Rushing

Asia Asantè – 30/155, 1 TD, 1 F
Kate Meichkowski – 6/22
Noriko Kokura – 3/11

Receiving

Adrienne Smith – 4/80, 1 TD, long of 45 yards
Kathryn Tylander – 6/44, 1 TD, long of 22 yards
Emily Weinberg – 5/84, long of 21 yards

Defense

Mocha Torres – 11 Tk
Jessica Penta – 8 Tk, 1 Sk, 1 TFL, 1 FF
Brianna Gallo – 6 Tk
Deanna Walsh – 5 Tk, 1 TFL, 1 FR
Vicky Eddy – 4 Tk, 1 INT, 2PD
Erin Diette – 4 Tk
Deirdre Hiort – 3 Tk, 1 TFL
Gumby Nesbitt – 3 Tk
Noriko Kokura – 2 Tk
Tiana Liu – 1 Tk

Special Teams

Kickoffs: Emily Weinberg – 5 for 35 yard average
Punts: Emily Weinberg – 5 for a 25 yard average
Field Goals: Brooke Goodman – 1/1, long of 28
Extra Points: Brooke Goodman – 3 for 3
Kickoff Returns: Adrienne Smith – 4 for 58 yards
Punt Returns: Adrienne Smith – 3 for 15 yards

Turnovers

Boston – 2
Cleveland – 2

Penalties

Boston – 9/100
Cleveland – 3/24