New York 41 @ Bay State 12

Medford, Massachusetts, April 9, 2005
Winning 29 games in a row and facing an opponent that you beat last season twice with a combined total score of 80-0, might lead to some complacency. There were a few warning signs, the Bay State Warriors (0-1) under new management and changes in personnel were narrowly defeated by the Chicago Force in Chicago the week before. The Force who had averaged over 35 points a game for 2 season were held to only 12 by the re-vamped Warrior’s defense. But not all signs are clearly marked.

It was a cool evening with temperatures in the low 50’s when the game began. The field was a bit slippery from the soft field due to rains the previous day.

The season began when Sharks quarterback and captain Val Halesworth called heads. The coin toss was tails and Bay State elected to receive the ball. Last year in the season opener, the Sharks kicked off against Atlanta and it was quickly returned for a touchdown. It didn’t happen this time, but the Warriors got a nice return to start the first drive of the game from their own 45-yard line.

The Sharks defense which has been the pride of the team in the past, has a few question marks this year. The defense has been hit with some retirements and injuries and holes are being fitted in with talented but untested rookies. In any case, they passed their first exam, forcing the Warriors to punt after they had moved down to the New York 31-yard line.

After the punt, New York started their first drive of the 2005 season from their own 9-yard line. They were able to get some breathing space by moving the ball up to the 29-yard line but they were then forced to punt. A bad long snap almost proved disasterous as punter Nikki Gwinnett could not kick the ball and was tackled at the Sharks 24-yard line.

Bay State with an excellent opportunity were able to get as close as the 5-yard line before they were hit with a penalty and then a key sack by Lakisha Grant for a 10-yard loss on third down. The Sharks defense prevailed this time and stopped a Bay State score but it was only temporary.

With the ball back in New York hands on the turnover of downs, it didn’t stay there long. Halesworth who was very rusty in the first half threw her first interception of the game to Warrior defensive back Jen Oliveri. Oliveri who had also intercepted a Halesworth pass in the 2003 playoffs returned the ball to the New York 18-yard line. From there Bay State capitalized on the turnover when quarterback Kim Boroyan hit receiver Nicole Rennick for a 12-yard touchdown pass with 6:20 left in the first quarter.

For the second year in a row, the Sharks were starting the season behind in a game, 0-6. The Sharks offense tried to get back on track but they continued to sputter. Halesworth was having trouble finding her receivers and was intercepted a second time by Oliveri in the second quarter.

Late in the second quarter, New York went to an old reliable offensive weapon, Missy Marmorale. Starting on their own 42-yard line, Halesworth put the ball into the hands of her running back who bullied her way forward. Five times in a row Marmorale got the ball and the result was the ball now resting on Bay State’s 14-yard line. Sensing that they might be forming a pattern, Halesworth went back to the air and found receiver Liz Presto in the endzone. The pass was low but Presto got down to cradle the ball in her arms as she hit the ground. The extra point was no good, but with 4:49 left in the first half, the Sharks had tied the score 6-6.

Throughout the first half, you could definitely see that the Warriors had improved over last season, but it appeared that the Sharks were rusty, possibly from the long bus trip.

The second half began with the Sharks receiving the kick-off. They returned the ball to their own 45-yard line. Trying to use what was successful in the first half proved not to be effective. Two handoffs to Marmorale produced 0 yards. New Sharks head coach Lynn Lewis was seeing if the Warriors had made any adjustments and it looked like they had. With a long third down and 10-yards to go, Halesworth went to the air. She found receiver Junko Tanida who made a nice leaping catch for 20-yards and more importantly a first down. That play seemed to open things up a bit as the Sharks now alternated between runs by Marmorale and passes by Halesworth. This proved to be effective as the Sharks marched down the field for a touchdown. The score coming on a 1-yard run by Marmorale with 9:58 left in the third quarter. Halesworth then hit Presto in the endzone for the 2-point conversion. This put the Sharks in the lead 14-6.

The momentum was starting to swing to New York and it did in a big way on the very next play. Rookie kicker Megan Antonucci booted the kick-off to Warrior’s Amy Ma. Ma came up on the ball too quickly and it bounced off her shoulder pads. A pile-up ensued and New York’s Presto recovered the football on Bay State’s 40-yard line. After the turnover, the Warriors compiled the problem with a pass interference penalty which moved the ball down to Bay State’s 19-yard line. A pass to Jen Blum and then a 4-yard run by Marmorale and the Sharks were on the board again only 2 minutes after their last score. Blum caught the 2-point conversion pass from Halesworth and the Sharks extended their lead 22-6.

On the following kick-off it was deja-vu all over again. The kick bounced off of Ma’s pads and Presto recovered. After 2 plays, New York had the ball on the 5-yard line. Halesworth who was gaining more and more confidence as she was getting her passing accuracy back, was chased out of the pocket by Bay State. She ran to her right and was heading towards the sideline when she saw Lori DeVivio get open in the endzone. Halesworth quickly delivered the ball and it was another New York touchdown. Gwinnett then split the uprights to give the Sharks a very comfortable 29-12 lead with 6:07 left in the third quarter.

Bay State not taking any chances switched their kick returners around. This time covering the left side of the field was Anthea Warren. Anotonucci’s kick went to the same spot as the last two kicks, but this time Warren was able to handle the kick and promptly returned it for a 74-yard touchdown return. The Warriors missed the extra point but they quickly struck back to make the score 29-12 with 5:53 left in the third quarter. But that was the closest it would get for Bay State.

On New York’s next possession, they combined running plays by Marmorale and passing plays to put the ball in the endzone again. The Sharks last score of the game came at the 7:25 mark of the fourth quarter. On a 9-play drive that began at the Warrior 43-yard line, the Sharks again mixed running plays with passes to Presto and Tanida for the final touchdown.

With the offense hitting on all cylindars in the second half, it should be noted that the defense played tough the whole game. The Sharks held the Bay State offense to less than 100 total yards. It was a nice surprise as the team had lost quite a few veterans due to injuries and positions were being filled in with rookies.

When the game was over, the players dumped a bucket of ice water on head coach Lewis to celebrate her first victory. The defensive game ball went to Grant for her many hard hits and the offensive game ball went to Presto for her touchdown reception but also for her recovery of two fumbles. The final game ball went to DeVivio for her touchdown catch but also for her defensive play in the secondary with two interceptions.

The Sharks travel further north next week to take on the Southern Maine Rebels in Old Orchard Beach, Maine. If you cannot travel with the team to Maine, you can still hear all the exciting football action on our flagship radio station, KEDU-FM.

1 2 3 4 Final
New York Sharks 0 6 29 6 41
Bay State Warriors 6 0 6 0 12

Scoring Summary
First Quarter
BS – (06:20) Renick 12 yard pass from Boroyan (kick failed)

Second Quarter
NY – (04:49) Presto 14 yard pass from Halesworth (kick failed)

Third Quarter
NY – (09:58) Marmorale 1 yard run (Presto pass from Halesworth)
NY – (07:56) Marmorale 4 yard run (Blum pass from Halesworth)
NY – (06:07) DeVivio 5 yard pass from Halesworth (Gwinnett kick)
BS – (05:53) Warren 74 yard kick-off return (kick failed)
NY – (00:23) Halesworth 2 yard run (kick failed)

Fourth Quarter
NY – (07:25) Halesworth 1 yard run (kick failed)

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