Monthly Archives: May 2007

D.C. 20 @ New York 14

Brooklyn, New York, May 5, 2007
Melinda Katz & Andra DouglasIt was the New York Sharks home opener and only the second game of the season, yet the atmosphere was filled with playoff excitement. Two premier teams in women’s football were facing off at the Sharks brand new field, Shark Field at the Aviator Sports Complex, a spanking brand new sporting facility in historic Floyd Bennet Field in Brooklyn. New York Council Member and New York Shark fan Melinda Katz was on hand to cheer on her team.

If was a beautiful day for spring football. The skies were clear and the temperature was in the mid-60’s. The Divas won the coin toss and elected to receive the ball. In the beginning it was like two heavyweights feeling each other out. Each team’s first drives ended in punts. But the Sharks were forced to punt from their own 12-yard line and D.C. started their second drive from the New York 34-yard line. The Divas almost got on the board but a potential touchdown pass was dropped in the endzone. After dodging that bullet, the Sharks defense held the Divas from scoring. The big play was Shauntay Stewart stopping Divas’ running back Rachelle Pecovsky-Bentley on a fourth day play.

New York went on offense on the turnover of downs from their own 24-yard line. The Sharks running attack was being stymied by the D.C. defense but on the third play of the drive, the Sharks went to the air. Karen Mulligan dropped back to pass but was quickly chased out of the pocket by the Divas. Mulligan rolled to her right and threw the ball down the right sideline. Reciever Brooke McKinney leaped into the air and was able to get her feet in bounds to give the Sharks a first down on a 23 yard gain. With the help of an encroachment penalty, New York had the ball on the Divas’ 47-yard line.

After the penalty was marked off, Sharks’ backup quarterback Adrienne Smith came running out onto the field. With Smith in the game, it added speed to the Sharks backfield. It seemed to be a nice change of pace as New York continued to keep the ball on the ground but were gaining yardage to get a first down. With New York now on the Divas’ 36-yard line, Smith connected with McKinney for a 5 yard gain and a Sharks first down.

Mulligan came back in to the game and finished off the drive. Going to Mandy Oppel twice for a total of 15 yards gained, it was up to Stewart to cap drive with a 3 yard touchdown drive. Megan Antonucci split the uprights for the extra point and the Sharks had drawn first blood. With 14:43 remaining in the second quarter New York led 7-0.

On D.C.’s posession, the Sharks defense were again able to shut down the Divas’ offense. Stewart continued to play big as she was able to shut down Pecovsky-Bentley running game. It was three and out and the Divas punted the ball.

The Sharks started their next drive at midfield. They picked up a big 14 yards on a pitch out to Oppel. The Divas then helped out big with a pass interference penalty which gave New York the ball on the Divas’ 21-yard line. The Sharks moved the ball down to the 8-yard line after a nice run by rookie Gabrielle Nazaire and then a pass to Janice Daniell for 7 and 6 yard gains respectively. After a facemask penalty on D.C. the Sharks had the ball on the 4-yard line. A quick pass to McKinney in the endzone gave the Sharks their second touchdown of the quarter and the game. Antonucci connected on the extra point and New York had stretched their lead to 14-0 with 9:23 left in the first half.

New York continued their strong defense stopping the Divas on 3 plays and forcing them to punt. After a short punt the Sharks were in good field position to really put the Divas on the ropes. But that opportunity quickly went away as the Divas were able to pick off the first of 4 Mulligan interceptions. Despite the turnover the Sharks defense shut down the Divas again, but it was costly for the New Yorkers as Stewart injured her leg and was out for the remainder of the game. It was the first of many injuries to the Sharks that day.

On the next drive, the Sharks were able to drive down to the Divas’ 20-yard line before the drive stalled. The big play of the drive was a 24-yard run by rookie Tina Prickett.. With the ball on the 20-yard line, the Sharks went for the field goal. Antonucci ran out on the field and if she connected, she would be making Sharks history. In the long storied history of the Sharks, they have never ever made a field goal. The move surprised the Divas and they called a time out. It was a 37-yard attempt and the snap and hold were good. The kick was high and long, but went wide left and the Sharks were still without a field goal made in their name.

The Divas had one more posession before the first half ended but could not do much as it ended with an interception by Smith.

The first 30 minutes of the game looked good for New York. They did suffer a few injuries in the half with Stewart, Yumi Warner, and Blessing Withers having to leave the game but they had pretty much dominated the first half. The second was going to be different.

The big play hurt the Sharks in their first game of the season against the Miami Fury. They gave up 4 touchdowns on plays of 56 yards or more. And it came back to haunt them in this game too. The Sharks started the second half receiving the kick off and in decent field position on their own 40-yard line. But New York quickly turned the ball over as Mulligan threw deep and Kathryn Hemlock intercepted the ball with a nifty catch over her shoulder. This gave the Divas the ball on the New York 46-yard line. D.C. made New York pay big as they handed the ball off to Pecovsky-Bentley and without Stewart to stop her, she rumbled all the way into the endzone. It was a quick strike for D.C. and energized their sidelines. They went for the two-point conversion but failed, yet they got on the scoreboad to make the score 14-6 with 13:54 left in the third quarter.

On their next posession, the Sharks could do nothing and were forced to punt. It was a good booming punt by Antonucci with D.C. taking over on their own 33-yard line. The Divas were feeling the momentum and going to the ground game, started pounding out yardage. There were 2 big runs of 20 yard gains by Okiima Pickett and Pecovsky-Bentley each and D.C. was threatening to score again. But with the help of a D.C. penalty and a big quarterback sack by Donna Spilotras the Sharks got the ball back on their own 13-yard line.

New York could not move the ball at all and were forced to punt with Antonucci at the doorstep of the endzone. The big play came up again to bite the Sharks as Hemlock caught the ball on her own 45-yard line and then with a wall of blockers ran the ball all the way back to the endzone for a 55-yard punt return touchdown. Pecovsky-Bentley powered her way to pick up the two point conversion and tie the score at 14 apiece with 2:51 left in the third quarter.

The Sharks were reeling but they faced the same situation in Miami after the Fury had tied up that game at 21 points in the third quarter. There New York was able to clamp things down. It was going to be different here. After the kick off the Sharks turned the ball over again. It was another Mulligan interception that gave D.C. the ball at the Sharks’ 21-yard line. It didn’t take the Divas long to take the lead as Pecovsky-Bentley picked up 8 yards and then Pickett finished the drive with a 7 yard touchdown run. The two point conversion failed but D.C. now had the lead 20-14 with 1:20 left in the third quarter.

It was now up to the offense to get the Sharks back into this game. The whole third quarter belonged to the Divas as they stopped New York on offense and beat up the defense with their running game. The Sharks started off their next posession in good field position from their own 45-yard line. The Divas were playing aggressively putting up to 9 players in the box trying to shut down the running attack, almost daring New York to throw. The Sharks started off keeping the ball on the ground. Three times Vivian Alberty got the ball and she was able to bull doze her way for 17 yards. But things stalled at the Divas’ 37-yard line and on a fourth down play, Mulligan connected with McKinney for a big 13 yard gain. Mulligan then hit Jen Blum to move the ball to the 18 yard line. The Sharks were threatening when disaster struck. Mulligan threw a short pass to Blum who caught the ball but it was torn from her hands by Hemlock for the Divas fourth interception of the day.

It looked pretty bleak, but the defense came to the Sharks aid as they stuffed the Divas and forced them to punt. New York got the ball back on the D.C. 45-yard line with less than 7 minutes to go in the game. But the Divas defense came up big. A sack of Mulligan pushed the Sharks all the way back to their own 46-yard line. Feeling that time was running out, the Sharks went for it on fourth down despite needing 19 yards. They tried to pull out a trick play but it went bust as the reverse play lost 6 yards.

D.C. got the ball and basically kept the ball on the ground and ran out the clock. They were able to get all the way down to the 1 yard line and a first down but were stopped 3 times in a row. Instead of going for the score on fourth down and the ball on the one yard line, the D.C. coaches took a knee instead. A very classy move.

It was over. The Sharks had lost during the regular season for the first time in 49 games over a 6 year span. It was a tough loss but an exciting game. The Sharks had purposely chose to have a tough schedule so they can be battle tested and this was one battle. It was also a costly loss as the team lost 6 starters by the end of the day. Alberty left the field in an ambulance adding to the Sharks injury list which already includes Amber Knighten, Lakisha Grant, Warner, Withers, Stewart, Lisa Doran, Teri Farleyand Diana Gonzalez.

The Sharks have a bye week coming up. This is coming at a good time to give the team a much needed rest. Even though it is early in the season the Sharks have been hit hard by the injury bug. It will also give the Sharks braintrust time to prepare the team to play their division rival Bay State Warriors in 2 weeks. That game will have huge playoff implications as New York is now 1/2 game behind the Warriors in the standings. The Sharks will travel to Boston on May 19th to take on the Warriors. Kick off time is at 3pm. If you cannot join the Sharks, you can still follow all the action as Pat Brown and Dave Maxwell will call the play-by-play live on WFNradio.com, the official broadcast station of the New York Sharks.

1 2 3 4 Final
D.C. Divas 0 0 20 0 20
New York Sharks 0 14 0 0 14

Scoring Summary
Second Quarter
NY – (14:43) Stewart 3 yard run (Antonucci kick)
NY – (09:23) McKinney 4 yard pass from Mulligan (Antonucci kick)

Third Quarter
DC – (13:54) Pecovsky-Bentley 46 yard run (run failed)
DC – (02:51) Hemlock 55 yard punt return (Pecovsky-Bentley run)
DC – (00:46) Picket 10 yard run (run failed)