The St. Louis SLAM women’s professional tackle football franchise is one victory away from reaching the finale of the Women’s Football Alliance (WFA) Tier II national championship game. This weekend on home turf, they plan on achieving that goal.
The SLAM (5-2) hosts the Sin City Trojans (5-4) for the WFA Tier II American Conference Championship Saturday night at Lindenwood University’s Belleville campus (2600 West Main, Belleville, IL). Kickoff is set for 7 p.m.
A triumph results in a WFA trophy tussle for the local gridiron gamers later this month. In 2009, the SLAM won the alliance’s national championship and a return trip is coveted.
With a powerful performance in its last outing, which netted St. Louis its fourth straight win, the squad is executing at levels needed to hoist future hardware.
The SLAM reached Saturday’s national semifinal with a 53-0 home victory over Houston Power in the WFA Tier II American Conference semifinal two weeks ago, where a 19-0 advantage after one quarter led to the ensuing shutout.
“The early lead was vital in establishing the tone of the game,” said SLAM defensive specialist Jelani Kelly. “Because we executed on both sides of the ball, we were able to focus on perfecting plays and other aspects of the game without worrying about the score. It was our expectation to win the game and the goal was to produce a shutout, as it is with any other opponent.”
The SLAM’s Candice Watkins had a breakthrough performance with a pair of touchdown runs and an end zone catch while quarterback Jamie Gaal had three scoring passes.
A major contributing factor to the SLAM’s quarterfinal final victory over Houston was the stellar work of its offensive line, paced by Antonnia Washington, Caitlin Erickson, Juan Snow, Marion Ball and others, who helped open the holes for rushing and provided the walls needed for Gaal’s completions.
“I think the cohesiveness of the O-line is what can be attributed to the standout performance from them,” assessed Kelly. “Over the course of the season, they have done a great job of learning the plays and executing (them) to the best of their abilities. Now that it’s later in the season, they have the ability to learn from each other and, as a result, can work better as a unit.”
SLAM veteran running back Taylor Hay, who collected a six-point romp in the quarterfinals, spearheads the backfield while Chelsea Clay assists. Receiving is projected to be paced by Kaylee Knuetzling, Kim Kinsella, Keyonna Smith and others.
Defensively, the SLAM has been on point in the summer stretch and seeks its third consecutive shutout Saturday night. Alongside Kelly, veterans Raven Williams, Alana Fields, Robyn Morrow, Pamela Green, Brooklyn Bastain, Brandi Troupe and additional personnel looks to hold another WFA foe to a goose-egg.
“I believe we have always meshed as a unit, but as time passes, we continue to get stronger as a unit,” said Kelly of her defensive sistren. “It has become second nature for us to move as one because we have had the time to learn to move as one.”
The SLAM’s American Conference title opponent, Las Vegas, Nevada-based Sin City, reached Saturday’s meeting with a 28-24 nail-biting semifinal win over Colorado-based Mile High Blaze two weeks ago.
The Trojans’ offense is anchored by quarterback Ashley Eldridge, who has seven touchdown rushes and five end zone passes heading into Saturday’s contest. Running back Felecia Gomez sports the muscle in the backfield while receivers Kelley Schroeder and Khalilah Landing provide a solid one-two punch in the aerial attack.
Early bracketology within the WFA Tier II playoffs had this Saturday’s match-up pretty much penciled in from the onset. The winner at Lindenwood takes on the victor of the other WFA Tier II National Conference title game between Philadelphia (6-3) and Tampa Bay (9-0) at the ensuing national title tilt held in Pittsburgh on July 22.
“It’s difficult to put into words how much we want to win a championship,” said the SLAM’s Kelly. “It has been a long time since we have made it this far in the playoffs as an organization…and my first time ever. I would love winning the championship this year which, I believe, is very attainable for us.”
A solid four quarters this Saturday at Lindenwood makes the SLAM’s ensuing dream one step closer to reality.
Arch City Sports will be in attendance Saturday night and will have a full recap posted on Sunday.