Whirlwinds dominate Ducks in championship
Joe Everett | Monday, November 16, 2015
On a perfect Sunday afternoon at Notre Dame Stadium, Welsh Family defeated Howard 26-7 to win the 2015 women’s interhall football championship, earning its redemption after losing to Pangborn last year.
“We were nervous coming into the game, but we knew what we needed to do, and we did it,” junior receiver Ariel Navotas said. “Today was also [junior quarterback] Rachel [Wimsatt]’s birthday, so we really wanted to get this win for her”.
The Whirlwinds scored 26 unanswered points, and secured their fifth-consecutive mercy-rule enforced victory, as the game was called in the fourth quarter after Wimsatt scored on a two-yard touchdown run.
Wimsatt, who accounted for all four Welsh Family touchdowns, analyzed the team’s offensive performance after the game.
“[Howard] put their fastest player on [senior receiver] Catherine [Michels], so I threw a lot to Ariel [Navotas],” Wimsatt said. “We also ran a lot of in-routes this game, which is something we never really did before.”
After Welsh Family chose to defer, Howard started the championship game strongly, putting together an impressive 65-yard drive capped by a seven-yard touchdown pass from senior quarterback Stephanie Peterson to senior wide receiver Maria Ianni. However, Welsh Family answered quickly with Wimsatt spreading the ball to her receivers and eventually finding freshman lineman Alana Bradley in the end zone on a line-release play to tie the score at seven apiece.
For the rest of the game, the Ducks’ offense was stopped cold by a tenacious Whirlwinds defense while Welsh Family’s offense kept on putting points on the board, highlighted by Wimsatt’s three-yard touchdown pass to Michels and 17-yard touchdown heave to another senior receiver, Bailey Scales, on a fourth-down prayer. That play was made possible by an earlier fourth down conversion by Welsh Family, courtesy of an impressive sideline catch by Navotas to keep the key drive alive. Navotas broke down the play afterwards.
“Rachel literally told me, ‘Get to the [20-yard line],’” Navotas said. “It was difficult on the opposing team’s sideline to make the catch, and I had a moment of panic, but I knew Rachel would get the ball to me.”
For the Ducks, the outcome was not what they had expected. Senior captain Peterson said despite the loss, however, her team had a lot to be happy about.
“Tough loss, but we’re really proud that our team made it to the stadium,” Peterson said. “We had a great season, great team, great coaches and a great crowd today”.
Peterson also shed light on an injury she sustained in the second quarter while covering a punt; an injury that may have limited the Ducks offensively from that point on.
“Knee popped — hurt a lot,” Peterson said. “It was the same injury from earlier in the year, so I knew I could play on it, especially with this being my last game as a senior.”
For co-captain Wimsatt and the Whirlwinds, their stretch of dominance might not be over, as the future still looks extremely bright.
“We’re losing Catherine and Bailey at wide receiver and Christina [Payne] at linebacker, but most of our key players are returning,” Wimsatt said. “[The juniors] have made it to the championship three years in a row with the A and B teams, so next year we look to make it four in a row.”
Playing in the championship inside Notre Dame Stadium was an instant memory for every member of both teams, and Whirlwind junior co-captain Sharon Chiang, hoisting the championship trophy after the game, did her best to put it into words.
“It’s an amazing experience … getting our win back from last year,” Chiang said. “It’s surreal being in the stadium where the football team plays.”