(ST. LOUIS) Classify the St. Louis SLAM’s regular season home campaign perfect. Actually, define Saturday’s 41-8 victory over the Indy Crash “sopping wet” due to the downpour that occurred during the game’s second half.
In the 33-point drencher that pushed the Women’s Football Alliance (WFA) defending Tier II national champs’ record to 6-0, one could whimsically say that the lone adversary the SLAM faced at St. Mary’s High School was Mother Nature herself.
With St. Louis leading 41-0 at intermission, the perpetual rainfall grounded a majority of the game-play in the second half. Nevertheless, the triumph netted the SLAM a perfect four-win local season and extended the team’s WFA undefeated streak to a dozen games.
Most importantly, Saturday’s topper added confidence to a team that desires back-to-back national titles.
“At this point of the season, we are definitely better than we were last year,” assessed SLAM defensive back Tiffany Pugh. “We’ll get better as we continue.”
“We had some great energy tonight,” added SLAM quarterback Jaime Gaal. “It’s always good to grab a big lead and hang on.”
On the game’s opening possession, the SLAM constructed an 11-play, 67-yard drive that resulted in the locals’ first score of the evening. Propelled by the stellar line work of Marion Ball, Caitlin Erickson, Antonnia Washington, Tammie Moore and Cayci Eichmeyer, running back Danielle Price’s 25-yard romp at the 10:05 mark resulted in St. Louis’ 7-0 edge following Taylor Hay’s successful kick afterwards.
Gaal felt that the aforementioned O-line was instrumental in the team’s quick sprint out of the gates.
“I appreciate them a lot,” she said. “It starts with them and I trust them. They really are the most important thing for every play and have been doing a great job.”
Conversely, the SLAM’s defense, anchored by Pugh, Kaylee Neutzling, Vicki Nichols, Jelani Kelly, Pamela Green, Brooklyn Bastain, Keyonna Smith, Robyn Morrow, Raven Williams, Myrt Davis and others, stuffed Indianapolis’ first possession, resulting in an immediate punt that gave St. Louis the ball at their own 42.
According to Pugh, that quick dominance also set the tone for success.
“For defense, we always want the shut out,” she said. “At the end of the day, we’ll take the W.”
With 7:15 left in the quarter, Gaal connected with Smith for a 52-yard touchdown strike that pushed the SLAM’s lead to 13-0. Hay’s converted PAT kick widened the score to 14-0.
Smith’s all-around top-level performance continued as the frame progressed and with her interception made with 3:30 left, the SLAM took over possession at midfield. After a pair of offsetting penalties, Price’s 50-yard touchdown catch from Gaal widened the score to 20-0. Hay’s third PAT kick of the night pushed the locals’ lead to 21-0.
In the second quarter, the SLAM pushed their lead to 27-0 as Gaal connected with Kelly for a seven-yard touchdown catch with 12:50 left in the half.
The Indy Crash (1-5) sputtered offensively and fumbled the ball on their next possession, resulting in a recovery by the SLAM’s Shannon Stranger on Indy’s 27-yard line with ten minutes left in the half.
St. Louis then cobbled an eight-play scoring drive, punctuated by Williams’ four-yard end zone scamper with 6:45 left that pushed the score to 33-0 and Neutzling’s added PAT kick made the score 34-0.
On the Crash’s next possession, the SLAM inserted their second defensive unit, occupied by Jasmine Yandell, Brandi Troupe, Donniece Mitchum, Melissa Webb, Jacquelyn Gunter, Bliss Jacobs and others, and stubbornly forced Indy to punt with under four minutes left in the half.
The SLAM claimed its final score of the night with under a minute remaining as Hay charged from three yards out that pushed the score to 40-0 with :34 left and Hay’s PAT kick widened the score to 41-0.
In the second half, a combination of bad weather and a continuous clock expedited the game’s low-scoring, back half output. Indy’s Valeria Rios scored a three-yard touchdown run with 11:25 in the fourth quarter that broke the shut out.
On the victors’ side, Gaal finished the night 14 of 17 for 184 yards and three touchdowns and anticipates the SLAM’s WFA road showdown next Saturday against the Minnesota Vixen (5-1).
“We have a lot going on our direction but we just have to fine tune it,” she said. “We’re excited but we need to play well and just focus on everything we do.”
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PASSING – Gaal: 14-17, 184 YDS, 3 TDs.
RUSHING – Hay: 12-65, 1 TD. Price: 2-35, 1 TD. Williams: 2-16, 1 TD. Nichols: 1-16. Neutzling: 1-6. Kelly: 1-5. Morrow: 1-1.
RECEIVING – Smith: 1-52, 1 TD. Price: 1-50, 1 TD. Kinsella: 2-23. Neutzling: 3-21. Nichols: 1-9. Kelly: 1-7, 1 TD. Clay: 1-5. Owens: 1-5.
KICKING- Hay: 4-5 PAT, 4 PTS. Neutzling: 1-1 PAT, 1 PT.