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Passion win their first NWFA title

WHITE'S CREEK, Tenn. - There is another world championship football team in Pittsburgh.

The Pittsburgh Passion won the National Women's Football Association championship game Saturday night, defeating the Columbus Comets, 32-0, in front of 2,500 fans at White's Creek High School, outside Nashville.

It was the Passion's first title in franchise history, but the team was forced to endure a one-hour delay because of a power outage that plunged the stadium into almost total darkness at halftime.

Just as they had all season, the Passion (12-0) dominated every aspect of the game.

Running back Torina Henley, who has had two major knee surgeries and is not expected to return next season, scored the game's first two touchdowns.

The first -- a 3-yard run by Henley with 10:58 to play in the first quarter -- came at the end of the first possession. The score capped a seven-play, 64-yard drive.

Columbus took the kickoff and moved into Passion territory but was stopped on fourth down on a tackle behind the line of scrimmage by Passion lineman Olivia Griswold. The Passion then put together a 13-play drive for a second touchdown, a 6-yard run by Henley.

Columbus (9-3) drove again, but an interception by Passion safety Kellie Byers turned the ball over and fullback Lyndsi Hughes scored on a 6-yard run with 6:19 left in the first half. Quarterback Lisa Horton gave the Passion a 26-0 halftime lead with a 1-yard run.

It wasn't always that easy, however.

The Passion suffered through five seasons of moving from stadium to stadium, dealing with season-ending injuries, coaching changes and money problems. Players are not paid.

Before the start of the game, player/owner Teresa Conn said the players never lost sight of their goal of winning a championship.

"In past seasons, the timing wasn't right, but we felt we had everything this year," Conn said. "I am so glad this happened with this group of women. We had all the pieces and put them all together this season. It was not fun waiting five years for this, but it is definitely worth it. There are some players who aren't coming back next year, so for those players this means even more."

Passion coach Ron Coder said any time you win a championship, it is a special moment. And not just for the players.

"We as coaches -- this means a lot to us, too," he said. "What has happened this season has been special for all of us. We would have been disappointed had we lost. But we felt confident coming into that game that we were going to take care of business."

Horton said the players have felt many emotions preparing for the title game.

"We have stuck together through it all," she said. "And we achieved the ultimate goal. We have proven, if you stick together, you can do great things. We have had players who are playing injured who have come back this season because they wanted to help us win this championship. But that is the kind of character of the players on this team."

Mt. Pleasant graduate and tight end Sherry Kring said the feeling of winning a championship compares to her first football game and her first touchdown.

"I get goose bumps just thinking about those moments and this moment," she said. "It is a feeling that is hard to describe, but also one that I will never forget."

Plum's Beth Amato, a linebacker, said winning the title is "like a fairy tale."

"I have so many emotions going through my head right now," she said. "This being my last year, and playing with a sore shoulder and knee and ankle, but this makes it all worth it. Playing football is crazy, but I have loved every minute of it."

Lower Burrell resident Dana Horn said she has spent the past two weeks trying to envision what it would be like to be a champion.

"It has been such a long wait," she said. "This is a moment of happiness and team satisfaction. These are tears of joy, because I have never won a championship in any sport before this. I have never even played for a championship before this."

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