Football fans who have followed the Montreal Blitz throughout the 2012 season have rarely seen anything but their team dominating a weaker team every game. That wasn’t the case Saturday evening at École secondaire Dalbé-Viau in the Independent Women’s Football League’s (IWFL) semi-finals as the Blitz fought the Houston Energy in a nail-biter that ended 28-16 in favour of the locals.
The Blitz opened the score in the first quarter but Houston fought its way back into the game with hard-hitting hustle, sacking Blitz quarterback Saadia Ashraf three times in the process and even took the lead 8-7 on a touchdown by Mia Williams and a two-point conversion. It was the first timeMontrealwas left trailing after one half of play this season.
”They’re a very good team and they were blitzing a lot. I think I got hit more in the first half than in the whole season. We had to put something else together at that point,” said Ashraf.
In the opening minutes of the third quarter, Ashraf showedHoustona play they hadn’t seen before, a ‘queen’ formation, with four receivers on the left side and one on the right. This caught the Energy off guard and left enough room for wide receiver Laurence Pontbriand to get open on the right for a 24-yard reception. Roxanne Granger caught Ashraf’s perfect pass on the next play and scored to give the Blitz the lead right back
The Energy still had some energy left in them. Mia Williams ran right through Montreal’s defence on Houston’s very next possession, a 68-yard touchdown that stunned the crowd in attendance. Tonya Newton ran for the two-point conversion and the took the lead 16-14 with 2:43 left in the third quarter.
The Blitz’ offence went right back to work on the next possession and replied with a 68-yard gain of its own as Ashraf threw a blistering pass to Granger who came swinging down the middle from the right side and then ran for the touchdown, only 22 seconds after Houston’s major.
An Energy fumble four minutes into the fourth quarter led to the Blitz nailing the coffin shut onHouston’s chances. Ashraf first threw a 21-yard pass to Pontbriand atHouston’s 21-yard line. On the next play, Sophie Roy pushed her way to the end zone through three Energy defenders. Up 28-16, the Blitz would not look back and win but the game had been a close one.
“At the end of the day, we just didn’t make plays when had the opportunity to make plays. We just killed ourselves with bad snaps, fumbles, missed catches. We played a game with lots of mistakes and you can’t win like that,” said Energy head coach Ryan Wiggins.
Blitz head coach Pierre Migner said his players rebounded well from a tough first half.
“The girls fell flat after the first quarter but they showed character in coming back.Houstonis really well-coached; they adjusted to what we were doing. They found our soft spots and exploited them. They gave us a good scare for sure,” he said.
The Blitz will play in the IWFL championship game on July 28 in Round Rock,Texasagainst the Sacramento Sirens.