Women’s professional football: Yes, it exists


Dateline: 7/7/07 7:00 p.m.

Where: Cupples Stadium, Pittsburgh, PA

Cleveland Fusion (8-2) versus Pittsburgh Passion (10-0)

What: National Women’s Football Association Northern Conference final

When I initially noticed the plethora of 7’s associated with this match-up, I
told my girlfriend Caty, “Either mystical forces are aligning themselves for this game or
they’re not.” Then she looked up from whatever she was doing and said,
“Thanks for that prognostication, Sylvia Browne.” All smarty-pants snark
aside, the repeating 7’s gone crazy had my spidey sense tingling. I’d
never been to a professional women’s football game, so to lose the last
vestiges of whatever innocence I have left at a conference championship
game elevated my excitement level by infinity.

Keep in mind that when I was in high school, we had a single powder puff
flag football game every year pitting the seniors against the juniors. I
played wide receiver and linebacker both years and loved it. But the
thing is, apart from pick-up games and the annual powder puff “classic,” to
play football on any level for far too long you had to be a guy. I’m happy
to say that this is no more! There are two, count ’em, TWO professional
women’s football leagues: the aforementioned NWFA,
whose season ends July
21 in Nashville with their league-wide championship game, aka the
Battle of the Best, and the Women’s Professional Football League, whose season starts August 18.

Caty lives a scant five blocks from Cupples Stadium, so as we walked to
the game we witnessed the great football tradition. That’s right:
tailgating. When I took a few pictures of the fairly libated revelers, all
female and gaydar pingy, one of them sidled up to me and queried
breathlessly, “Hey, where are these pictures going to show up?” I said,
“Hopefully on the lesbian website Afterellen.com.” “Cool!” she said, and went
to high five me and whiffed. I turned to Caty and said, “We’re in for a
wild ride tonight!” And girl howdy, were we!

Caty securing tickets.

Game recap:

The Fusion won the opening coin toss and elected to receive. With QB
Mary Dietrick under center the offense took over near midfield and
immediately launched a full throttle run attack right up the gut of the
Passion defense. This proved effective as nine plays later Fusion RB Erica
Ware hit pay dirt with a 2-yard TD scamper. Ware finished the game with
an astounding 7.3 yards per carry with 95 yards on 13 attempts.

Following the ensuing kickoff the Fusion defense held tough, tight and
stingy, forcing the Passion to punt after a quick three and out series of
downs. Passion owner and free safety/special teamer Theresa Conn
downed the punt inside the Fusion 10-yard line.

Theresa Conn downing the ball.

This proved to be one of those intangible and indefinable moments in a
game where and when the momentum swings inextricably from one team
to the other. The Passion held the Fusion backed up against their own
goal line, and after a single series of downs, took over on the Cleveland 49
after the punt.

The Passion set to task quickly, moving the ball steadily and effectively
down field, culminating in an impressive 11-yard around-the-end dash for
the end zone by RB Torina Henley.

Henley scores.

With the score tied 7-7, Pittsburgh held Cleveland on their next
possession and RB Lyndsi Hughes ended the offensive drive with a 5-yard
touchdown run (two-point conversion successful). The Passion continued
to dominate the second quarter with two more unanswered scores, TD
tosses by QB Lisa Horton of 48 and 53 yards to Wilma Walton and Lori
Johnson respectively, the latter being an absolutely perfect spiral thrown
on a rope with eyes to the sideline. I was so busy screaming and jumping
up and down, I sadly got no pictures of the feat. But I defy ANY QB
anywhere to throw a more accurately placed and timed pass, bar

The first half ended with a 29-7 score in the Passion’s favor.
During halftime I smoked a cigarette, Caty ate a cupcake, and we
excitedly talked game highlights over each other until we had no choice
but to make out like shameless bandits on the harsh, unforgiving, littered
pavement of Ninth Street.

The start of the second half saw the Passion receiving the kickoff and
driving once more down the field with Horton finishing off with a 10-yard
TD pass to Walton. The Passion defense was able to shutdown the Fusion
offense for the entire third quarter.

At the start of the fourth quarter, RB Henley scored for the second time,
on her 36th birthday to boot, on a 12-yard run. Followed on the next
Passion possession with a score by RB Jenine Suprano on a spirited burst
of speed and mad 27-yard dash for the TD (kick failed).
Midway through the fourth quarter the Fusion put together another
impressive scoring drive, combining running and passing, Dietrick tossed
a perfect 6-yard strike to Shauna Nevel to bring the score to 49-15 (two-
point conversion successful).

And that’s all she wrote and how the game ended. Passion QB Horton
finished 9 of 12 with 179 yards and three TD passes. The Pittsburgh
Passion (11-0) will meet the Columbus Comets (9-2), who advanced by
defeating the Oklahoma City Lightning Saturday July 7th in a 9-7
squeaker, at Whites Creek High School in Nashville for the women’s
equivalent of the Super Bowl, the Battle of the Best. I have no idea how
this will ultimately play out, but I do know that the level of play is
exceptional and I look forward to tracking the WPFL season when it kicks off
next month.

Honestly, as a lifelong football fan, I don’t know why these leagues weren’t
on my radar since day one. Further proof that having kids bleeds time
away from what I’d otherwise fritter in the direction of all things that
interest me greatly.

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