DC Divas Extend Home Streak to 28 with Win over Baltimore
Divas wide receiver #88 Nikki Williams works her way downfield after a catch during the DC Divas' 41-6 victory over the Baltimore Nighthawks in Landover, MD on Saturday, May 31, 2008. David Lovell/DC Sports Box
LANDOVER, Md. -- The DC Divas came into their Saturday night game against the Baltimore Nighthawks expecting to win. They were 3-2 coming into the game, while the ‘Hawks were 1-4, and the Divas had won their last 27 home games in a row. They did not disappoint their small but spirited crowd of fans, rolling to a 41-6 victory in which they allowed no scoring in the final three quarters. Even the single touchdown was something owner Paul Hamlin didn’t want to give up, as the Divas are preparing for much tougher upcoming games against New York and Pittsburgh. When asked about a missed extra point in the first quarter, Mr. Hamlin quipped, “This game won’t be decided by extra points.”

The first quarter was clearly dominated by the Divas, but perhaps more competitive than what had been expected. The Divas scored two touchdowns, one on a 34-yard throw to running back Tiffany Matthews, and one on a 53 yard airborne bomb between quarterback Allyson Hamlin and wide receiver Nikki Williams. In the middle, Baltimore responded with a touchdown by wide receiver #3 Marqita Roman, but failed to convert any points afterward.

The Nighthawks would, indeed, fail to score the rest of the game. This is due in part to a fairly meager roster and a number of tired players, many of whom play positions on both sides of the line of scrimmage, but was also testimony to the Divas’ fanatical approach to defense, both at the line of scrimmage and in the skilled positions in the backfield. The offense would add two more touchdowns before the half, the first on a tough 1-yard run by LaShawn Foust, and the second on a 17-yard pass from Hamlin to wide receiver Tara Stephenson. Both touchdowns were followed by successful 2-point conversions, one by Nikki Williams and one by Tiffany Matthews, leaving the score at halftime 29-7.

The Divas continued their momentum on both sides of the ball into the third quarter. As in the first two quarters, two touchdowns were scored, one a 32-yard run by running back Okiima Pickett and one a tough 2-yard run by LaShawn Foust, her second of the game. The fourth quarter was considerably sloppier for both teams, perhaps a sign of fatigue setting in and a certain amount of resignation about the outcome of the game. The list of penalties grew markedly, and one member of the Nighthawks’ squad was even ejected from the game.

For fans new to professional women’s football, there was definitely enough action in the game to make the ticket price worthwhile. At the same time, it was obvious in some small ways that this is a fledgling league and a sport that is on the front end of the development curve. For example, before the game even started, the organizers turned out both excellent color guards and singers for the national anthem and “God Bless America,” but audio problems with the wireless field microphone made many fans cover their ears. The halftime entertainment and audience participation contests were excellent and up to par with other professional sports, but towards the end of the game fans could choose to watch kids playing Frisbee on the periphery of the game, which is not something you would see at even a college football game. Thus, it is clear that the sport is still struggling with some growing pains but the enthusiasm of players, coaches, and owners alike is unmistakeable. The atmosphere after the game was very familial, and it was heartening to see so many fans and relatives come down to celebrate the win with the players who had worked so hard to secure it. The Divas next and final home game is Saturday, June 14, at 7 pm, against the undefeated Pittsburgh Passion. The only team that really gave them much trouble all year was the Divas, so this game has all the potential for big drama and a big fan turnout. For more information on the Divas, visit www.dcdivas.com.