The Chicago Force (2-0) won its home opener in the WFA beating the Columbus Comets (0-1) 47-0 on Saturday night at Evanston Township High School.
Running back Melissa Smith led a balanced offensive attack with three touchdowns and 125 yards rushing. The Force behind solid offensive line play ran for 247 yards while completing 17 passes for 187 yards.
Quarterback Sami Grisafe completed 13-of-22 passes for 158 yards andtwo touchdowns.
Head coach John Konecki had some concerns about the running game when All-star back Jessica Springer decided not to return for this season.
Smith returned to the Force for this season and rushed for 256 yards in the season opener at Kansas City. Smith was a factor again on Saturday.
“Jessica is a once in a lifetime player,” admitted Konecki. “She has left the team. She is moving on. Our philosophy is the next person up in the lineup. We knew we had the offensive line back. We knew it might be twoor three players to pick up the slack. Brandy, Melissa, and Mary did a greatjob today.”
“It feels good to be back (on the team),” Smith said on the returning to the squad for the first time since 2008.
“It feels great to have Melissa back on the team,” Grisafe said. “The heart of Melissa Smith has never left. We really missed Melissa. She’s an integral part of the team.”
Football is the ultimate team sport. Konecki was pleased with bothsides of the football as the defense limited the Comets to minus seven yardsrushing. Columbus had three turnovers and finished the contest with only 90 yards of total offense.
The evening began with Chicago Bears defensive end Israel Idonije performing the ceremonial coin toss before taking pictures and signing autographs with fans.
“This is the first women’s football game that I’ve have attended and I was very impressed,” Idonije said.
The Force scored on their first possession at Lazier Field as BrandyHatcher capped a 62-yard drive by scoring on a two-yard run.
Smith scored on a 16-yard run in the second quarter for a 14-0 lead as Grisafe threw a pass to Jeanette Gray for the two-point conversion.
It’s hard to say one play could make a difference in a 47-0 game.
However, the complexion of this game might have changed when Grisafe threw a 37-yard touchdown pass to Elizabeth Strozinsky on the final play of the first half.
The Force was never in trouble as Smith scored twice in the third quarter, and Grisafe added an eight-yard touchdown pass to Brandi Srda in the fourth quarter.
Rookie Mary Choules came off the bench to end the scoring on a one-yard run. Choules rushed for 52 yards on 10 carries.
Grisafe believed it was important to win the home opener.
“It sets the tone for the entire year,” Grisafe said on the home opener. Grisafe is coming off a fine season last year with 22 touchdown passes. “She’s on top of her game,” Smith said on Grisafe. “She knows what to do. She can adjust (to the defense). She can be my lead blocker. She’s an all-around player.”
The Force has started its tenth season with the same goal of winning the league championship for the first time in team history. Is this the year?
“I think we can win the championship,” Grisafe said. “It’s not about how much skill you have in my opinion. We’ve had skilled teams in the past. It’s about finding that X factor. I think this team has the opportunity and capability to win the title.”
Top: Chicago Bears defensive end Israel Idonije performing the ceremonial coin toss.