The Passion forced the New York Sharks into three first-half turnovers Saturday at Cupples Stadium on the South Side to put the Sharks in a hole too deep to escape.
The Passion won, 26-12, to advance to the Independent Women's Football League's national championship against the Houston Energy July 26 in Rock Hill, S.C.
The Passion (10-0) held the Sharks (7-3) at bay, not conceding a touchdown from the Sharks offense. All three of the Sharks losses this season came against the Passion.
"They're a good team," quarterback Lisa Horton said. "It's hard to beat a team three times."
On the first play from scrimmage, Horton pitched it to receiver Amanda Haeg, who threw a pass from the backfield that was intercepted by Sharks defensive back Jewelle Grimsley.
But the momentum quickly turned in the Passion's favor. The Sharks couldn't capitalize on the miscue, turning the ball over on downs. The Passion scored the next drive on a Ciara Chic 33-yard touchdown run, but couldn't complete the extra point.
Passion safety Alex McAtee intercepted Sharks quarterback Karen Mulligan on each of the Sharks' next two possessions. The first interception didn't amount to anything for the Passion, but the second led to a scoring drive capped by a 15-yard touchdown pass from Horton to receiver Rachel Wojdowski. The Passion went for 2, but failed to convert.
"We put a little bit more pressure on [Mulligan] to make decisions," McAtee said of the defense. "We were sending in some blitzes, shaking her up a bit."
The Sharks turned it over again early in the second quarter when Passion defensive lineman Olivia Griswold recovered a Mulligan fumble. The Passion drove downfield and scored on a 13-yard touchdown pass from Horton to Wojdowski, extending the lead to 19-0.
The Sharks' first score came on the ensuing kickoff, when Nhandi Brown returned it 82 yards for a touchdown. The Sharks failed to convert the extra point and the Passion took a 19-6 lead into the half.
Kadesha Clark added a rushing touchdown for the Passion in the third quarter to extend the lead to 26-6. The Sharks' only other score came on an 80-yard fumble return by defensive back Duece Reyes late in the fourth. They then recovered an onside kick but were unable to make anything of it.
Horton threw for 120 yards and two touchdowns on 11-for-23 passing. Wojdowski led the Passion with 65 receiving yards and two touchdowns on five receptions.
"I've got to give credit to our defense," Horton said. "They shut them down, for the most part. They've been doing that all year though."
The Passion advanced to their second championship game in team history. They previously completed a perfect 12-0 season in 2007.
Sean Hammond: email@example.com, 412-263-1466 or Twitter @sean_hammond.
First Published July 12, 2014 11:27 PM