Maple Heights, Ohio – The Pittsburgh Passion journey to the Buckeye State Saturday, April 7, as they confront their turnpike rival, the Cleveland Fusion at Maple Heights High School. This opening scrimmage of the 2018 campaign gets underway at 7:00 p.m. The Black and Gold turned back the Brown, Orange, and White 36-20 at home in the third week of 2017.
Pittsburgh’s offense starts with veteran quarterback Lisa Horton, who has put up 13,573 yards and 192 touchdowns in her prolific career. The 5-foot-6 signal caller has two Women’s Football Alliance All-Stars to throw to in Angela Baker and Sharon Vasquez. The wide receiving duo own a combined 49 touchdowns in their careers.
Baker accomplished a career milestone last year against the Fusion as she became the second Passion player to have 2000 career receiving yards. The 5-foot-4 Pittsburgh native hauled in five receptions for 83-yards and a touchdown.
Taking care of the ground attack are Kia Foster and Tara Catone who are back for their third and fourth seasons, respectively. Foster tallied 112 rushing yards on just six carries last season against Cleveland while Catone recorded 44 yards. Together they have 35 career touchdowns.
This unit was not shut out once during the 2017 regular season, and part of the reason lies in the strength of the offensive line. Kim Zubovic, Kaitlain Niedermeyer, Sam Simeone , Lauren Ferragonio , Dawn Pederson, and Veronica Burress are a formidable group for any opposing defense.
When the Women of Steel line up on defense, linebackers Hannah Daman and Tia Montgomery, along with defensive back Krystal Cozzo lead the charge. They surrendered a total of 147 points during the regular season, an 18.4 PPG average.
Montgomery claimed eight tackles while rookie inside linebacker Kelcie Edmonds added four tackles and a sack in the previous win over Cleveland. The defense finished the meeting with a pair of touchdowns and a two-point safety.
For the Fusion, the players on offense who could cause trouble are running back Domonique Jopek and wide receiver Maria Jackson. With the retirement of quarterback Rosa Casiano, the Passion could see either Sydney Reardon or Alexis Gunter under center this evening.
Anchoring the Cleveland defense is the veteran trio of defensive lineman Chelsea Biggers, linebacker Veronica Rucker, and defensive back Amanda Cooch.
Prediction: After looking under the sink in the kitchen, I found my crystal ball. With a little bit of cleaning and buffing, I am predicting a 22-14 triumph for the Passion for beginning the season.
Other Voices: Mark Simon with his Backseat Forecast agrees with me in picking Pittsburgh to seize victory this week against Cleveland.
Weather: The gridion watchers at weather.com are calling for mostly clear skies with 32 degrees the high at kickoff and an overnight low of 29. Winds should be out of the west to northwest at two to seven mph and zero percent chance of rain or snow.
Next Up: After a bye week, head coach Teresa Conn’s crew return to play their home opener Saturday, April 21, against the Boston Renegades at Joe P. DeMichela Stadium, part of the West Allegheny High School. Kickoff for the Black and Gold in Imperial, PA is 6:30 p.m.
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