Boston Renegades win their 5th Straight Women’s Football Alliance Championship, Wolves, Coyotes capture Div. 2 & 3

In a mix of games featuring repeating champions, the teams attempting to win back-to-back Women’s Football Alliance Championship titles went 2 for 3.

The Boston Renegades won a record fifth WFA championship, and the West Palm Beach Coyotes captured their third (the first two were in the WTFL). Only the Oklahoma City Lady Force failed to repeat.

Boston Renegades 35 – St. Louis Slam 7

The 7-0 Renegades came into the Pro Division championship game as the overwhelming favorite, but it seemed that the 8-0 Slam, the winner of 4 Division II championships, had not received that memo.

The St. Louis team kept the powerful Boston offense off balance for the entire first quarter, and even took the lead 7-0 with 8:41 in the second quarter after running back Jada Humphrey took a handoff from quarterback Jaime Gaal, and sprinted the rest of the 51 yards to pay dirt. Taylor Hay kicked the extra point, and the large Renegades following became very quiet.

That would be the high point for the Slam, however, as Boston quickly took control of the game. They tied the game with 3:45 left in the half when wide receiver Stephanie Pascual grabbed a slant pass from the WFA’s leading passer quarterback Allison Cahill and ran it in 24 yards for the score. Vanessa Baer’s extra point went through the uprights, and there was renewed life in the Boston fans. Only 41 seconds later, linebacker Darci Leslie intercepted Gaal’s pass attempt and returned it to the St. Louis 11 yard line. Two plays later, from the 8 yard line, Cahill found last year’s game MVP Chante Bonds open and the wide receiver stepped into the end zone. After the Baer’s extra point with 2:25 left in the half, the Renegades took a 14-7 lead that they would not relinquish.

The Slam had some life left though, and after the defense stopped the Renegades on 4th and 10 from the St. Louis 43, Gaal hit wide receiver Kerri McMahan for 11 yards to the Boston 41, and Keyona Smith at the 37. After a roughing the kicker penalty moved the ball to the 27, and with 2 seconds left, Hay attempted a 44 yard field goal attempt that just missed.

A 14-7 lead at halftime was new territory for the Renegades in 2023, but after the early scare the machine that the coaching staff led by HC John Johnson built began to roll. Directed by Cahill, behind a dominant offensive line that gave her time to throw, and with the help of a talented backfield scattered with international stars, the four time champions never looked back.

Finnish star Tytti Kuusinen busted into the end zone from 4 yards out with 5:47 left in the third quarter, and Baer added the extra point to extend Boston’s lead to 14 points. Great Britain’s Ruth Matta was next in line, and after she caught a 3rd and 20 fade pass from Cahill to the 6 yard line, she ran it in from there on 4th down. Baer’s kick made it 28-7 with 28 seconds left in the quarter.

St. Louis kept coming, and the Gaal to McMahon combination made it down to the Boston 32 before Gaal’s 4th and 23 pass was tipped by defensive back Whitney Zelee, and Boston took over. The Renegades returned the favor by turning the ball over on downs at the St. Louis 40 yard line with 7:40 left. Gaal found Smith on a seam route to the Boston 30. A penalty moved them back to the 42, and on another 4th and 20, Zelee blitzed again, and with linebacker Solina Pascual, met at the quarterback.

Latoya Saulters scored the final points of the game for the Renegades when she took a Cahill pitch at the 6 yard line and went in untouched. The Slam had one more chance, but Gaal’s pass to Kelsie Nesbit slid off the receiver’s hand.

With their victory, the Renegades have more championships than any other women’s football teams, save for the Toledo Troopers who won 7 National Women’s Football League championships between 1971 and 1977. If Boston’s core group keeps playing at the level they have for the past five years that record may be in danger.

Zelee, who was once one of the best running backs in women’s football, earned the game MVP for her defensive play for Boston. Humphrey won the honor for St. Louis.

The Renegades also became the first recipient of the Franco Harris Award. The former NFL star, and part owner of the Pittsburgh Passion passed away in December of last year, and the WFA has named their Pro Division trophy for him.

Division II

New York Wolves 21 – Oklahoma City Lady Force 0

The 8-0 Lady Force won last year’s Division III championship, but this was a new year, in a new division. The also undefeated 8-0 Wolves had yet to win a WFA championship, but with a large core of players and coaches from the 2018 Division II champion NY Sharks, they were not strangers to the big stage.

Everything went the Wolves way during the game. Their defense, which was ranked number 2 in Division II, just below the Lady Force, held the Oklahomans out of the end zone. The Shark offense, which came in at number 3, behind the number 1 ranked Lady Force, moved the ball well. Both teams also had takeaways. Wolves’ linebacker Kayla Russell recovered a fumble by Oklahoma’s Elizabeth Jones on the Wolves’ 40. Oklahoma’s Sade Roberts stripped the ball on her own 23 and returned it to the 50 before taken down by wide receiver Alexis Parrotta’s soccer style tackle. Lady Force quarterback Desiree Jeffries, who had starred in last year’s game, had to run for her life as the Wolves’ defensive line kept the OKC offense off balance.

The Wolves scored their first touchdown on a mass QB sneak play by Danneille Ayala from the 1 yard line with 14:48 left in the second quarter. Wolves’ placekicker Brooke Singer came in to add the extra point, and the Wolves led 7-0. They added to that with 5:24 left in the third quarter after Cami Best took a sweep right into the end zone. Singer booted the extra point to extend the Wolves’ lead to 14. The Wolves closed out the scoring when quarterback Karen Mulligan hit wide receiver, and eventual game MVP, Allison Gandlin for an 8 yard TD pass on 4th and goal.

Division III

West Palm Beach Coyotes 58 – New Mexico Banitas 6

The Coyotes played in the Women’s Tackle Football League for 2 seasons before moving to the WFA. The WTFL began playing 8-on-8 football in 2021, and switched to the 11-on-11 game in 2022. The Coyotes dominated the league, going undefeated and winning both Legacy Bowl Trophies during their time in the league. They moved up to the WFA in 2023, and they finally lost a game, but only one, to the Orlando Anarchy 26-36.

The Banitas are a truly new team, although some of their players may have had experience playing for other teams in New Mexico. They won 5 and lost 2 in 2023, and defeated the Zydeco Spice to make the final game.

The differences in years playing together became apparent from the start. Coyote running back Keondra Green opened the scoring for the winners when she carried the ball into the end zone from 4 yards out with 9:21 left in the first quarter. The 2-point conversion attempt failed, so WPB led 6-0. The Coyotes scored 30 more points in the first half that included a 57 yard run by Carolyn Williams, and quarterback Patrice Collie added the 2-point conversion. Collie called her own number and scored the next TD from 8 yards. Lasondrya Williams added the 2-point conversion. Wide receiver Ace Ware, the eventual game MVP for the Coyotes, took a check down pass from Collie and broke tackles before sprinting the rest of the way for a 57 yard score. The Collie to War scoring combination clicked again just as time ran out in the half, this time for 64 yards. When CJ Williams added the 2-point conversion, the score was 36-0 Coyotes at half.

The Coyote scoring explosion slowed a little in the second half, and the victors only managed 22 more points. The only points in the third quarter came when L. Williams scored her second rushing TD from 12 yards out. Leanza Wright broke into the scoring column when she caught a 42 yard TD pass. Wright added the 2-point conversion on a pass from Collie.

The Banitas finally got on the board when Wyshana Brooks sprinted for 57 yards. The conversion attempt failed, and then the Coyotes added a final score when running back Dametria Gibson ran for the 23 yard score. Wide receiver Bryonte Hilaire put the final points of the game on the board by taking a jet sweep into the end zone for the 2-point conversion.

Russ Crawford is an Associate Professor of History at Ohio Northern University in Ada, OH. He has published three books: Women’s American Football: Breaking Barriers On and Off the Field (2022), Le Football: The History of American Football in