Passion fall to Divas in season opener
A familiar nemesis ruined the Passion's highest-profile home opener.
Ashley Whisonant caught three of Allyson Hamlin's four touchdown passes and the D.C. Divas beat the Passion, 42-31, in the first Women's Football Alliance game played at new Highmark Stadium in Station Square.
The Passion lost for only the 11th time since 2007 — five of those defeats have come at the hands of the Divas, who knocked the Passion out of the WFA playoffs last season.
D.C. did not lead until the 4:45 mark of the third quarter when Whisonant caught her third touchdown pass of the game to put the Divas up, 35-31.
“We made too many mistakes in the second half,” Passion coach Muzzy Colosimo said. “Not catching the ball sometimes, not making tackles. But that's just fundamental football. I have no doubt we'll fix that.”
Pittsburgh quarterback Lisa Horton was 17 for 37 for 244 passing yards. Horton, the reigning league MVP, threw first-half touchdown passes to Amanda Haeg and Angela Baker to give her 100 for her career.
“I was joking on the sidelines saying, ‘That means you're old,' ” Horton said with a laugh. “I didn't realize it; I had no idea I was even there. (Haeg) caught it, so that's more special, one of my close friends on the team.”
Ciara Chic had a team-high 62 rushing yards and a touchdown and Candice Snyder also had a touchdown run for the Passion, who scored 28 points over the game's first 24 minutes but were shut out in the second half.
“We just lost a little tempo,” Horton said. “We were executing well early, and we kind of lost that.”
The Divas did their damage via the big play. D.C.'s first five touchdowns all were from at least 20 yards; those touchdowns averaged 43 yards. Whisonant's touchdown receptions were of 87, 39 and 38 yards. She also was lethal on punt returns.
The Passion were able to match D.C. when it came to big plays during a first quarter in which Chic had a 53-yard touchdown run. But the Divas had 14 points and 150 yards on just four offensive snaps. They had another touchdown — on a long Whisonant punt return — called back due to penalty.
D.C. got its first 14 points off a Kenyett Grigsby 40-yard run and Whisonant's first touchdown receptions, from 87 yards. Grigsby totaled 265 rushing yards and had two touchdowns.
“(Whisonant) and (Grigsby) are very good players, and the QB knows how to get them the ball,” Colosimo said. “They do a nice job, they hit you, they come at you every play.
“But we didn't get sacked once, we moved the ball the first half all we wanted. We just busted up drives with making mistakes, that's all.”
Horton threw touchdown passes of 9 and 59 yards in the second quarter to give the Passion a 28-14 lead. Pittsburgh led, 31-21, at halftime.
The Divas had 459 total yards in a turnover-free game in the new stadium on the Monongahela River.
While the Passion have been largely successful over the decade-plus of their existence, D.C. has beaten them in 10 of 13 meetings, including two of three last season. Twice over the past four years, D.C. ended the Passion's season with a playoff victory.