When the St. Louis SLAM women’s tackle football team began its 2015 campaign in early April, it possessed an air of enthusiasm, excitement and, perhaps, a tinge of nervousness.
After a one-year absence on the gridiron, and with a lot of rookies in tow, the early question posed was how well would the locals fare in the highly-competitive and rapidly-evolving Women’s Football Alliance (WFA)?
At the regular season’s midway point, it seems like the SLAM never missed a step.
St. Louis (3-1) hosts the Derby City Dynamite Saturday night at Lindenwood University (209 South Kingshighway St., St. Charles, MO) Kickoff for the game, promoted as “SLAM Hall of Fame Night,” is scheduled for 7 p.m. Tickets for the game are $12 and children 10 and under get in free with a paying adult.
The SLAM utilized a 12-0 fourth quarter sprint en route to a 50-39 win at Minnesota last Saturday. Six different players scored touchdowns in the 11-point victory.
Halfway through the regular season, the output has been eye-opening. Quarterback Jelani Kelly, in her first full year at the position, has made the most of opportunity with ten scoring passes and six rushing trips into the end zone. Veteran fullback Taylor Hay has five touchdown runs and receivers Vicki Nichols and Keyonna Smith each have three scoring receptions through four games.
While those statistics have been impressive, many are giving complete credit to the hard-working SLAM offensive line, which has helped the locals outscore its opponents collectively through four turf battles, 143-100.
Hay acknowledged her front wall in the squad’s strong start, which includes three veterans, Caitlin Erickson, Toni Washington and twelve-season SLAMmer Juan Snow, as well as rookies Nicola Ackles and Quianna Dickerson.
“The line IS the offense,” she said. “Without them, there would be no run or pass game. All my credit always goes to my lineman!”
Meanwhile, the SLAM defense has risen to the occasion to help secure the team’s three victories. In the trio of triumphs, zero points were surrendered to its weekly opponent in the final frame.
“Defense wins games,” said Hay. “Many times, the defense doesn’t get the credit they deserve because they don’t score the points. With that being said, not allowing any points in the fourth quarter proves that we fight until the very end.”
She immediately mentions safety Robin Marrow, who has been with the league since the SLAM’s 2003 inaugural campaign. Marrow’s interception in the second quarter last Saturday against Minnesota resulted in the team scoring imperative points in the ensuing offensive drive. The aforementioned Smith and Kaylee Nuetzling, another pair of returnees, provide a solid “one-two” punch at the cornerback slot.
According to Hay, this core of veterans have provided guidance to the newer faces of the squad, which includes Brooklyn Bastain, Raven Williams, Tanzin Ackles, Chelsea Clay and Jessica Foote.
“They have allowed them to grow and develop into great football players,” she said of her sistren. “I love my defense.”
Optimism is high for the SLAM this Saturday against a Louisville, Kentucky-based squad that has yet to record a win this season.
Like the SLAM, the Dynamite utilizes multiple layers of offense. Two-way player La Essence Houston-Buckner is a dual threat at both rushing and receiving while quarterback Kylee Anthony and receiver Shanequa Boone supplements a veteran line-up.
Long story short, the Kentuckians cannot be taken lightly this weekend. Conversely, on the SLAM’s upside, after three successive games on the road, St. Louis begins a stretch of three straight at Lindenwood.
“This home game is more than past due,” said Hay of Saturday’s tilt. “It has been over a month and we are ready to enjoy the benefit of the twelfth man…our fans!”
With that extra incentive in play, the SLAM is primed to take another solid step forward and grab back-to-back victories.
For more information on the St. Louis SLAM, go to stlslam.com.