Recap vs. Philadelphia Phoenix – July 12, 2003

D.C. Divas Come Up Short In Tremendous Football Game, 36-32
Philadelphia 36, DC 32
By Leah Fahringer

Philadelphia, PA – After a lightning storm delay at the Wissahakon High School, the D.C. Divas and the Philadelphia Phoenix took the field on July 12 to see who would move on to the Northern Conference championship game. After a phenomenal contest that left spectators awed, the Divas’ playoff journey ended with a 36-32 defeat by the Philadelphia Phoenix. The Divas’ dreams of reaching their first conference title game in team history ended with a heartbreaking interception when victory was just one more touchdown away.

The game was delayed by a lightning storm, but the Divas provided a little lightning of their own with the opening kickoff. The Divas kicked off to Philadelphia, and the ball rolled into the end zone. The Phoenix players, apparently thinking the ball was dead, began to walk off the field, but the Divas’ Amy Britton alertly fell on the football in the Philadelphia end zone for a Divas touchdown on the opening kickoff. Donna Wilkinson added a two-point conversion run, and the Diva claimed a quick 8-0 lead.

Philadelphia made the first big offensive play of the game moments later. Philadelphia halfback Mia Brickhouse raced 70 yards to the end zone, and two minutes into the contest, the Divas and Phoenix were knotted at 8-8.

The two teams didn’t slow down. On their first possession, the Divas gave the ball to the NWFA’s leading rusher, Donna Wilkinson. Wilkinson cashed in with a two-yard run that put the Divas on top, 14-8. Wilkinson had another tremendous performance on the ground, rushing for 197 yards and one touchdown. She finished the season with an NWFA-record 1,267 rushing yards for the year.

The two-point conversion run put the Divas back ahead, 16-8. But the Philadelphia Phoenix again fought back, scoring a touchdown near the end of the first quarter to tie the score, 16-16, after one period.

At the beginning of the second quarter, the Divas (8-2) made their first major offensive mistake. A Divas fumble gave the Phoenix the ball in good field position, and it wasn’t long before the Phoenix scored a third touchdown to seize their first lead, 24-16.

The Divas’ offense tried desperately to overcome that deficit. Cornerback Ivy Tillman sparked the Divas’ next drive with a 35-yard punt return. Carries by Donna Wilkinson, LaShawn Foust, and wide receiver Vickie Lucas helped the Divas march down the field.

A 15-yard penalty put DC in a hole, facing third down and 18. But quarterback Allyson Hamlin fired a long pass down the field, and despite the ball being bobbled by a member of the Phoenix defense, Nikki Williams reeled in a spectacular catch right at the first down marker.

However, the officials spotted Williams down one yard short of the first down line. On fourth and one, the Philadelphia defense rose up and stopped the Divas short, recovering the ball on downs for the Phoenix. The Divas trailed at halftime, 24-16.

The Phoenix (8-1) increased their eight-point lead in the third quarter. A Philadelphia touchdown gave them a 30-16 advantage, and as the Divas entered the fourth quarter, they faced their largest deficit of the season.

But the D.C. Divas did not give up. Powered by carries from Wilkinson and Foust, DC drove down the field. Hamlin found Tarlesha Wayne in the end zone for a touchdown, and with a successful two-point conversion by Wilkinson, the Divas were one slim score behind Philadelphia at 30-24.

That six-point deficit was short-lived, however. The Phoenix scored a touchdown on a long breakaway run to push their lead back to 36-24.

Still, the Divas kept their focus. Hamlin tossed her second fourth-quarter touchdown pass, this time to wide receiver Stacy Palmer, to put the Divas back within striking distance. A successful two-point conversion put the Divas behind by just four points, 36-32, with 8:56 to play in the game.

The Divas’ defensive line held the Phoenix back on their next possession to get the ball back for the DC offense. But Philadelphia managed to pick off a pass with only two minutes left in the contest to clinch a victory for the Phoenix in a spectacular game.

As the clock wound down, the curtain went down on a stellar season for the D.C. Divas. The Divas set a team record with eight victories, won their first division championship, and notched their first playoff victory. Way to go, D.C. Divas!

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