Unfortunately, the Passion season came to an end in the Conference Championship game over the weekend. I'll let longtime reader and Passion megafan smarchit take over:
The Passion season came to a disappointing close this evening in the IWFL Eastern conference championship game at the hands of the host Chicago Force
The game was a hard hitting defensive struggle throughout, but the Passion managed to draw first blood midway through the 2nd quarter, capping off a 65 yard drive with a 1 yard TD run. The Passion held a slim 7-0 lead at halftime, and maintained that advantage through the 3rd quarter.
At around the 5 minute mark of the 3rd, the hard hitting of the Chicago Force started to turn the tide of the game a bit. While picking up a key first down to move the Passion inside the Chicago 30 yard line, Pittsburgh starting QB Lisa Horton was knocked out of the game by Force safety Linda Bashe, and replaced by backup Kara Prentice. With Prentice at the helm, the Passion were unable to move any further until a 4th down pass that came up short of the sticks, turning the ball over on downs at the Chicago 10 yard line. The Force were able to get a few passes to get out of their own end and towards midfield, but were eventually forced to punt again. The punt was nearly blocked by the Passion, but Chicago got it away, and benefited from a good bounce that pinned Pittsburgh down inside their own 2 yard line.
Number 3 QB (technically a #2b, but officially 3rd on the depth chart) Janice Masters took over for Prentice, and helped give the Passion a little more breathing room, before they were forced to punt with about 8 minutes to go in the 4th. Chicago took over at the Passion 48 yard line, and started to move the ball. Pittsburgh had Chicago down to their final gasps though at 6:47, facing a 4th and 1 from the 33. On the 4th down attempt, the Passion had appeared to stop Chicago short, but a timeout had been called just before the snap, giving the Force a second chance. This time, they converted on a QB sneak by Samantha Grisafe, to continue the drive.
Behind the powerful 2nd and 3rd effort running of Force FB Melissa Smith, Chicago got the ball down to the 1 yard line. From there, Grisafe did the rest, calling her own number to get the Force on the scoreboard with 4 minutes to go.
Then lightning struck for the 2nd time in as many playoff games for the Force, as Melissa Smith converted the 2 point attempt for an 8-7 Chicago lead. Horton came back into the game on the ensuing Passion drive, but Pittsburgh was unable to move the ball again, and facing a 4th and 2 with just over 2 minutes left, fumbled away the ball back to Chicago.
With all 3 timeouts still in their pocket, the Passion defense was able to force a 3 and out, and got the ball back one last time at their own 31 yard line, with 45 seconds left to go. After a false start on first down, Horton nearly hooked up with WR Wilma Walton on a 1st and 15 needle threading sideline pass. But Bache was able to knock it away on a bang bang play, bringing up 2nd down. On 2nd and 15, Horton wound up and threw again, but Theresa Simon stepped up and intercepted the pass, sealing the deal.
Rough way to end the season, especially for a team that had won a championship the year before. It is difficult to assume what the team expected this year, what with the success of last season and the uncertainty of a move to a more demanding conference. Sure, the team still has an unreal regular-season win streak, but I bet that's little consolation after losing a conference championship.
On behalf of Passion fans everywhere, I'd like to congratulate the team on a thrilling season filled with tons of wins and and one crushing loss. I pity any team that has to play the Passion next season, as I bet the team has a little extra motivation in '09.
Passion Season Recap:
Game 1: 62-0 win over Central PA Vipers
Game 2: 34-8 win over Boston Militia
Game 3: 38-34 win over D.C. Divas
Game 4: 38-0 win over Columbus Phantoms
Game 5: 28-0 win over Baltimore Nighthawks
Game 6: 28-21 win over New York Sharks
Game 7: 54-6 win over the Holyoke Hurricanes
Game 8: 17-12 win over the D.C. Divas
Game 9: 41-6 win over the Orlando Mayhem
Game 10: 8-7 Loss to the Chicago Force (above)