They say that the third time is a charm. But for the Dallas Elite, they hoped it wasn’t just luck that they would be taking home from their third straight appearance in the national championship game. After losing in the last two years to the D.C. Divas, they wanted to bring home the trophy.
Standing in their way was the Boston Renegades, a formidable opponent making their first appearance in the national championship since 2014.
The Elite entered Saturday night’s game with a record of 8-0, having crushed the San Diego Surge, 63-7, to win the American Conference. The Renegades, on the other hand, battled this season 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 as the culminating event in the Women’s Football Alliance Championship Weekend, the W Bowl II, in Pittsburgh, PA.
The Elite defense started off red hot, shutting down the Renegades on three plays, forcing an early punt. When the snap went over the punter’s head, Dallas recovered the ball, taking over on the Boston 13-yard line, and setting up a touchdown run by Odessa Jenkins (Team USA profile,) giving 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 a Boston turnover on downs. This created another opportunity for Dallas as Jenkins found a gap and ran 77 yards for her second touchdown on two carries, giving the Elite a 12-0 lead.
“We needed to establish the run game,” Jenkins said after the game of those first two touchdowns. “We figured our bigs could push them around a bit and they did, we came with the power game and [Boston] didn’t adjust right away.”
Turnovers killed the Renegades in the first quarter.
On the following Renegade possession, they elected to go for it on fourth down, but again the pass was knocked down by Elizabeth Landry. The Elite made the Renegades pay for the turnover as Jenkins made a 35-yard run to the Boston 9-yard line and set up a Jessica Gerhart 6-yard pass to Umeki Webb for the third Dallas touchdown and a 19-0 lead at the end of the first quarter.
“[Dallas] caught us off guard with some of the shifting they did,” said Boston Renegades linebacker Vicky Eddy (Team USA Profile) of the first half. “There were a couple of people we wanted to be strong side and they kept switching the side on us.”
Things would settle down for the Renegades, but not soon enough. Dallas scored on their first possession after another Boston 3-and-out, when Dallas Wide Receiver Landry took a reverse 84 yards on the Elite’s first possession and extended the lead to 25-0.
Dallas continued to put pressure on the Renegades for the rest of the half.
The Renegades again turned the ball over on downs, giving the ball back to the Elite at their own 28-yard line. Dallas used the next drive to control the ball and run the clock, with a 77-yard, 8-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, Allison Cahill and the Boston Renegades were about to flip the script when they turned to the passing game.
With less than two minutes to play in the first half, Boston marched down the field with three quick passes, culminating with a 37-yard touchdown pass from Cahill to Emily Beinecke and ending the half, 31-7.
Whatever was said in the Boston locker room during halftime, it was clear that 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. Then Cahill hit Adrienne Smith with a 47-yard bomb to make it 31-14, but the remaining 14:45 left in the quarter was a defensive struggle on both sides.
The Elite intercepted a Cahill pass at their own 39 yard line to open the 4th quarter and, after trying another reverse play in the red zone, the exchange was fumbled and recovered by Jessica Penta of the Renegades.
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. This was followed by Boston’s textbook onside kick that was recovered once again by Penta.
“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,” Eddy said after the 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. But Dallas had more of a problem than that — they had lost their top two cornerbacks to injury and Jenkins was playing both sides of the ball.
The final 6 minutes were like the dream of every football fan.
In this 10-point ballgame, both teams threatened and both teams made 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.
“I’m walking off the field proud of the way we played and our defense,” Eddy said about the Renegade performance, particularly holding the Elite scoreless for the entire second half. “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 an historic win for the Dallas Elite, not only to win the National Championship, but to quiet the critics that say they can’t win against National Conference teams.
“People are going to break down our wins, break down your losses,” Jenkins said after the game. “But they can’t take away that we’re national champions.”