(BELLEVILLE, IL) The checklist was straightforward for the St. Louis SLAM women’s tackle football franchise as it entered its regular season finale against Kansas City Saturday night at Lindenwood University.
The missive was to set the tone early, execute with precision on both sides of the ball, capitalize on the visitors’ mistakes and build momentum heading into a potential post-season berth in the Women’s Football Alliance (WFA).
In the end, all boxes contained an “X” as St. Louis produced an overwhelming 32-0 victory over the Titans that netted the SLAM its third consecutive win and pushed the team’s record to 4-2.
The shutout had significant ramifications as St. Louis, currently ranked second in WFA’s Tier II, topped the WFA Tier I cross-state rival that had averaged 34 points through five games but came up scoreless in Saturday’s turf tussle.
“We knew coming into this game that we had to win,” said SLAM defensive specialist Raven Williams afterwards. “We all stepped up and executed.”
“It was great,” added quarterback Jaime Gaal. “We wanted to punch first and score first. In the past, we have had problems finishing drives, so we wanted to finish them and we did.”
The SLAM were extremely aggressive offensively from the onset and executed a 12-play, 50-yard game-opening drive that was punctuated with Gaal’s 14-yard touchdown pass to Kaylee Neutzling with 8:52 left in the first quarter. Taylor Hay’s successful kick afterwards gave St. Louis a 7-0 edge.
On Kansas City’s first series, a fumble on the second snap from scrimmage was recovered by the SLAM’s Alana Fields. St. Louis proceeded to capitalize on the miscue with Danielle Brock’s 37-yard touchdown reception with six minutes left in the first frame that resulted in the SLAM’s 14-0 lead following Hay’s successful kick.
As much as St. Louis’ play was firing on all cylinders early, Kansas City’s offense conversely sputtered as the first half progressed. Facing a punting situation on its own 22-yard line with 10:20 left in the second quarter, the Titans’ ensuing snap sailed high over the kicker and landed in the end zone resulting in a safety that pushed the SLAM’s lead to 16-0.
The Titans’ unfortunate trend continued less than three minutes later as another SLAM safety recorded at the 7:50 mark extended the locals’ edge to 18-0.
With the ensuing possession following the safety, the SLAM churned a 13-play, 60-yard scoring series that widened the differential. Gaal’s three-yard, red zone strike to Neutzling with 1:58 left in the second quarter resulted in the receiver’s second scoring catch of the half that pushed St. Louis’ advantage to 25-0 with 1:58 remaining.
No doubt, the impressive lead that the SLAM possessed at the game’s midpoint, propelled by the solid offensive line work of Antonnia Washington, Caitlin Erickson, Juan Snow, Marion Ball and others, was imperative to the evening’s inevitable result.
In the third quarter, the SLAM widened the score to 32-0 with an 11-play, 60-yard series that concluded with Hay’s one-yard plunge with 6:26 left in the third quarter.
In the fourth quarter, St. Louis preserved the goose-egg over the Titans (4-2) with continuing stubborn defensive play from Williams, Neutzling, Fields, Brock, Jelani Kelly, Brooklyn Bastain, Keyonna Smith, Chelsea Clay, Robyn Morrow, Pamela Green and a host of others.
“Our D-line stepped up and we are so proud of them,” reflected Williams. “We knew we had to stop Kansas City and it worked.”
With Saturday’s 32-point eye-opening triumph over a higher-tiered WFA opponent, the SLAM awaits its fate as the governing body holds its final session of regular season games next weekend. When all results are recorded, tabulated and calculated, the SLAM will know its Tier II playoff future. In the meantime, the squad prepares for whatever post-season journey it potentially faces.
“We do have a break,” said Gaal, who finished Saturday’s contest with nine completions for 90 yards and three touchdowns. “We will practice on getting faster and stronger, knowing our plays and defenses. We haven’t reached out peak yet. Tonight was good, but we hope to keep improving.”
“Whenever out next game is, we’re going to come out stronger than ever,” predicted Williams.
Hay finished the game with 21 carries for 88 yards and a touchdown while converting all four extra point kicks. In late duty that consumed the clock, Candice Watkins collected 29 yards off nine rushes.
On the receiving end, Neutzling grabbed five catches for 26 yards and a pair of touchdowns while Brock finished with 48 yards off of two snares and an end zone trip.
For more information on the SLAM, go to stlslam.com.