Passion records easy playoff victory
Playing their first playoff game in the Independent Women's Football League, the Pittsburgh Passion easily defeated South Atlantic division champion Orlando, 41-6, Saturday night at Cupples Stadium.
"It was one of those games that was a little unexpected," co-head coach Jeff Ogden said of the rout. "(Orlando) came out and played hard. We just started with some good field position, and we were able to get a couple scores on them early. I think all three phases -- our offense, defense and special teams -- all came through tonight."
With the win, the Passion advance to play the Chicago Force in the Eastern Conference title game July 12.
Running back Torina Henley led the Passion with 92 yards and three touchdowns on 12 carries. And on a night when passing the ball was difficult due to heavy rain, quarterback Lisa Horton and receiver Lori Johnson hooked up for two long touchdowns.
The Passion opened the scoring with a 51-yard drive on their second possession, which was capped by Henley's 6-yard rushing touchdown.
The Passion got a good bounce on the ensuing kickoff to pin the Mayhem on their own 7-yard line. Orlando went three and out, and its following punt was returned 33 yards by Jenine Suprano to the 7-yard line.
The Passion were quick to cash in on the field position and did it with style.
On a second-and-9, Henley stretched Orlando's defense to the left, broke five tackles and juked several others before tip-toeing down the sideline for her second touchdown run of the game, putting the Passion up, 14-0.
"Henley's just playing at a different level right now, and this is exactly when we need her," Ogden said.
Early in the second quarter, it looked like the Passion had another quick score. One play after Jenn Hoffman recovered an Orlando muffed punt, Horton hit Johnson for a 48-yard touchdown. But an offensive pass interference call on Johnson pushed the team back to its own 37.
The Horton-to-Johnson connection wasn't abandoned, though.
On third-and-25, the quarterback found her receiver again for a 63-yard touchdown pass -- on a nearly identical route to the earlier penalized play.
"Everybody on the team, when we make a mistake, we get back up," Johnson said. "Everybody just stays on their feet and keeps going."
Orlando blocked the extra point, as the Passion took a 20-0 lead.
The Mayhem aired it out on their next possession, finally getting on the board with quarterback Shannon Heinz's 43-yard scoring pass to receiver Misty Hart. The extra point was blocked.
The air show continued on the next Passion drive. Facing a fourth-and-10, Horton found Johnson for a 31-yard score, stretching her team's lead to 27-6.
Passion running back Laurie Roberts scored on a 1-yard run to make the score 34-6 heading into halftime.
The scoring barrage took a break in the third quarter until Henley's 4-yard run with a minute left in the period gave her team a five-touchdown lead. Henley's three rushing touchdowns matched her regular-season total.