The San Diego Surge scored two touchdowns in the final four minutes Aug. 4, then hung on to defeat the Chicago Force 40-36 in a thrilling, back-and-forth Women's Football Alliance (WFA) national championship game played at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh.
The Force finished the season 11-1. This was the team's second championship game loss in its 10-year existence. San Diego finished 12-0.
Casey Brick scored the game-winning touchdown with 1:49 remaining when she returned Tricia Charbonneau's punt 66 yards for the TD.
The Force had a chance in the final minutes of regulation time. Force quarterback Sami Grisafe connected with Trish Harper for a 30-yard completion to the Surge 15 yard-line and the Chicago first down.
But then disaster struck the Force.
On the next play, Grisafe's pass was intercepted by Cilena Mosley at the Surge 6-yard line. Mosley returned it 28 yards and San Diego took over at its 24-yard line after a penalty on the play.
Brick was named the MVP in front of 2,307 fans in what was the first women's football game ever played in an NFL stadium.
"While this loss is extremely disappointing, I am so incredibly proud of this team," Force owner/GM Linda Bache said. "It was clear that we played a better game than our opponent, as the stats clearly show, and as even their own fans and players acknowledged. But we gave up a few big plays. If you remove those four [or] five plays, we completely dominated them.
"This was an amazing season, and this championship was hugely important to the sport. It was the first time a women's championship [game] has been played in an NFL stadium, and it was broadcast live on ESPN3. The fans, the media, everyone is talking about what a fantastic game this was. We are committed to returning to the championship game next year and claiming the title that we deserve."
Grisafe was 21 for 32 passing for 269 yards and four touchdowns. Her prime target was Brandy Hatcher, who caught a team-high seven passes for 45 yards, including two touchdowns. Albi Zhubi had five receptions for 99 yards and one touchdown. Brandi Srda also had a touchdown among her three receptions.
Grisafe was named Chicago's MVP.
Melissa Smith was Chicago's main running weapon; she carried 26 times for 111 yards.
Darcy Leslie led the Force defense with a team-high seven tackles, while Emma Finestone and Kim Marks each added six.
Chicago's Amber Burns, a middle linebacker in her fourth season on the team, highlighted by an All-Star season in 2009, posted on Facebook after the loss: "Total bummer, especially since it's my last season."
Konesha Rhea, a defensive lineman for the Force, posted on Facebook: "Great championship game, but unfortunately we did not win. I love my band of sisters and am SO proud of you!"
Liz Okey, an offensive lineman, added her commentary on Facebook, too. She wrote: "Some of us spend our life striving towards a goal, a ring, a trophy, a perfect season. We chase this dream knowing that the odds, in the end, will always be against us. That perfection is nearly impossible. But we keep chasing. [Saturday], we fell short. We lost the national championship in the last 90 seconds of the game. It hurts, it's more painful than I could even predict.
"But at the end of the day, I'm grateful. I was a part of something great, something truly amazing. These experiences are the stories that will be told to my grand kids, engrained in sports history, benchmarks to reach towards. Even though it wasn't the outcome we wanted. [Saturday], I was a part of something amazing and no one can ever take that away."