(written for Somerville Patch)
Running back Whitney Zelee picked up 101 yards and two touchdowns on the ground, 10 yards and a touchdown through the air, and 42 yards on a kickoff return to lead the Boston Militia to a 34-19 victory over the San Diego Surge.
In the championship game, played Saturday evening at Pennington High School Stadium in Bedford, Texas, San Diego went up 6-0 on an acrobatic catch in the end zone in the final minute of the first quarter, according to the Militias Twitter feed and team website.
The Militia responded by scoring the next 27 points of the game.
Quarterback and National Conference Offensive Player of the Year Allison Cahill hit wide receiver Adrienne Smith on a 21-yard pass, and the point-after put Boston up 7-6 with 12:04 left in the second.
Smith credited the score to NC Coach of the Year Derrick Beasley, who saw from scouting reports that the Surge were vulnerable to slant routes.
“I go out there, I know I can beat this girl on the slant,” Smith said Monday.
Chante Bonds’s interception then killed a 12-play San Diego drive and gave the Militia the ball at the their own 27-yard line. The Militia marched down the field, thanks in no small part to Zelee’s rushing. Zelee scored on a 3-yard rush, and the point-after made it 14-6 with 2:44 left in the half.
Facing fourth down in its own red zone, the Surge decided not to punt. Once again, Bonds made the key play, tipping away the pass and giving the Militia the ball at the Surge 14-yard line. Two plays later, Cahill hit Zelee in the end zone to go up 20-6.
Zelee began the second half with a 42-yard kickoff return to the Surge 47-yard line, and the Militia then went on a six-play drive that ended with Cahill hitting tight end Emily Weinberg for a 16-yard touchdown pass, and the extra point made it 27-6 Militia with 11:12 left in the third. Cahill finished the game 8-13 for 106 yards, three touchdowns and an interception.
The Surge scored on a 25-yard touchdown pass from Melissa Gallegos to Jessica Javelet to make it 27-13 with just under 10 minutes left in the third, and the Militia’s subsequent drive stalled out near midfield, forcing the punt.
Once again Bonds made the play on defense, tipping a fourth-down pass and giving the ball back to the offense inside the Surge red zone. Zelee scored her third touchdown of the game four plays later on a 4-yard rush on the left side. The extra point made it 34-13 with just over four minutes left in the third.
Cahill’s interception early in the fourth led to one final Surge touchdown, but San Diego’s next drive ended at the Militia 7-yard line when the defense knocked away a fourth-and-goal pass with 5:22 left in the game. The Militia rushed for 85 yards on eight plays to run out the clock and win the title.
Smith said that beyond any one player’s performance, Beasley’s 2-6-2 defensive allignment — two down-linemen, six linebackers, two safeties — kept the Surge off the scoreboard.
“The real genius of our defense was our Coach Beasley,” Smith said.
The Militia finished the season 11-1, winning their last 11 games including the championship. It was the Militia’s second championship in two years; they went undefeated in the Independent Women’s Football League and won the championship last season.
Looking back on the season, Smith — who last year played for the New York Sharks in the IWFL — said she was grateful to the Militia, both for the championship and for her own development.
“The Boston Militia are a top notch organization,” Smith said. “I think they took whatever talent I brought to the team and they magnified it exponentially.”