Renegades defenders Whitney Zelee #33 and Briannah Gallo #24 box in Running Back Kelli Smith #7 of the Alabama Fire.b ©Mitzi Velez Lorenzana
Renegades defenders Whitney Zelee #33 and Briannah Gallo #24 box in Running Back Kelli Smith #7 of the Alabama Fire.b ©Mitzi Velez Lorenzana

Renegades continue march towards 5th straight title

July 9, 2023

Kevin J. Stone, New England Football Journal

boston blows out ALABAMA in National Conference Championship game

REVERE MA – In case you’ve lost track, that’s 39 and counting for the Boston Renegades.

With another easier-than-it-should-be 58-6 victory over the Alabama Fire at Harry Della Russo Stadium on Saturday night, the Renegades earned a fifth straight National Conference title and a return trip to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio for the Women’s Football Alliance Pro National Championship on July 22.

Boston (8-0) has won 39 consecutive games dating back to 2018. The last time the Renegades weren’t celebrating a victory was May 19, 2018 after losing a 40-35 shootout against to the DC Divas. The Renegades are unequivocally the standard in the WFA and the new dynasty in New England professional sports. Win No. 40 in a row would lock up a fifth straight championship as well.

“I didn’t actually know the streak to be honest with you,” said head coach John Johnson. “It’s just one day at a time, one game at a time and one practice at a time. We really live that motto. The way we practice, we don’t think about what happened yesterday. We’re thinking about right now. Being in the moment, we talk about that all the time.”

“We live and die by the trenches,” added OC Vernon Crawford. “They’re hitting the sleds, they’re competing every day. They’re the heartbeat of our team.”

Alabama won the toss, elected to defer and basically lost the game right at that point. Boston opened with a 10-pkay, 69-yard drive and capped it with a 12-yard run by Tytti Kuusinen with Vanessa Baer adding her first of several PAT’s.

Darcy Leslie block a punt on the Fire’s first possession and Deanna Walsh recovered at the Boston 47. Five plays later, Allison Cahill – who was celebrated throughout the night for her 20 years in pro football – shoveled a pass to Stephanie Pascual and she rumbled in from the six for a 14-0 lead. After forcing a turnover on downs late in the first, the Renegades quickly made it 21-0 36 seconds into the second when Chante Bonds took a screen 54 yards down the Renegades sideline for a TD.

“It’s not hard to not look ahead,” Bonds said when asked about the journey to get back to another title game. “We start in January and we’re focused and we’re worried about what we’re doing that day…I think it’s really easy for us to stay focused and be where our feet are at. As John (Johnson) says all the time, “be where your feet are at.”

Carolyn Glynn came up with a pick soon thereafter for Boston and a flag after the play set Cahill and the offense up at the Bama 26. Three plays later, Ruth Matta punched one in from the five for a 28-point lead. On a fourth down for the Fire the ensuing possession, Danielle Fournier recovered a fumble at the Boston 37. Kuusinen soon found the end zone again from a yard out in the final minute of the half for a 35-point lead at the break.

A turnover on downs for the defense to open the third quickly turned into a 42-0 lead four plays later when Cahill had to back pedal on fourth-and-14 from the 21. Cahill just sort of chucked a pass up for grabs and Bonds was able to haul it in for a touchdown over a defender. Another turnover on downs ended up turning into a three-yard TD catch for Pascual and a 49-0 lead. Kara Gailiunas forced a fumble and Spring Gamble recovered at the Bama 38 to end the quarter. Surprisingly, Boston ended up turning the ball over on downs inside the five, but almost immediately went up 51-0 when a penalty was called on a punt from the end zone.

Bama scored its only points of the game with 8:54 remaining, but the Renegades officially iced the game when Cahill connected with Shani Dummott on another shovel pass for a five-yard touchdown. For Cahill, it’s been a long road back to this point after tearing her Achilles before last year’s championship game in Canton.

“Watched last year’s championship from a scooter,” Cahill said after the game when talking about her recovery and getting back to the big stage. “I couldn’t have been prouder of the team, but grateful I was able to rehab and be ready Week 1, that was my goal…I mean, I’ll do whatever it takes, but my preference is to be on the field, playing QB for the Boston Renegades. It’s a privilege. Every year is different and this group is pretty special.”

Now, the GOAT, her teammates and the coaches of the Renegades will use their boatload of ‘not-just-another-game’ experience to prepare for the St. Louis. A fifth straight championship on July 22nd will be all the motivation anyone needs during the preparation. You don’t become a dynasty without falling in love with everything else aside from the game, and that’s exactly what this team has done during its incredible streak.

“One more to go. It’ll be a fun two weeks. We love the preparation,” Cahill added. “It’s weeks of preparation culminating…just trying to complete our goal.”

“Our approach won’t be any different,” said Johnson. “It’s also very helpful that we’ve been there. couple times and logistically, just in terms of operations and our meetings, etc. and our players have had some experience there, so it’s a little easier in that regard. The game is the game, the preparation  is the preparation and that’s not going to change.”