Game 1 – 4/1/17

Minnesota Vixen @ Madison Blaze


On a beautiful early spring evening in the Midwest, the Minnesota Vixen opened their 2017 season in grand fashion, using an arsenal of weapons to churn out just over 500 yards of combined offense in a 44-0 shutout of their longtime rivals, the Madison Blaze.

It was both teams’ inaugural matchup under the Women’s Football Alliance umbrella. The Vixen, who lost to the Utah Falconz in the 2016 Independent Women’s Football League championship, were eager to build on a season in which they posted six shutouts and set attendance records at nearly every game. The Blaze, meanwhile, were looking to re-establish dominance in a new league after a 5-4 finish in 2016.

Madison started the game with the ball near midfield, but two tackles for loss and an incomplete pass had them punting to the Vixen, who took over on their own 16 yard line. Minnesota looked stalled at third and 11 on their own 26 when a mad scramble and heave by second-year QB Kiersten Hansen ended in a 66-yard reception by rookie tight end Samantha Barber for first and goal. A few plays later, Hansen stuck it in from 1 yard out for the game’s first score. A good PAT by Katie Muller had the Vixen up 7-0.

Two possessions later, Hansen and Barber hooked up again for a 37-yard score. Minnesota’s defense continued to harass Madison for the rest of the first half, sacking QB Paisley Bennett five times, allowing only one first down and standing tall to prevent a score when the Blaze had first and goal on the 4 yard line early in the second quarter. Madison’s defense also showed some mettle, sacking Hansen on second and goal from the 11 and intercepting Hansen on the next play.

Undaunted, the Vixen defense answered with a safety and Minnesota owned a 16-0 lead at the half.

The second half was all Minnesota, with Madison only taking 16 snaps on offense. Linebacker Crystal Ninas led the way with 5½ tackles, followed by defensive end Sheriba Dunn with four tackles and three sacks. Madison Schmatz added 2½ tackles and two sacks. The Vixen had 2 safeties, 18 tackles for loss and 10 sacks total, plus a fumble recovery (forced by Sheena Reed and recovered by Cynthia “Red” Bryant) and two interceptions (one a 66-yard score by Connor Jo Lewis).

On offense, Barber added another touchdown reception in the second half, and Grace Cooper caught three passes for 40 yards and pounded her way to 110 yards and a touchdown on 23 carries in her women’s football debut. Speedy rookie Mikaila Soule had 7 carries for 50 yards and the Vixen’s final touchdown. Muller was good on four of five PATs.  Hansen was 12-of-24 passing and rushed 9 times for 37 yards. Overall, the offense generated 505 yards of total offense, 241 on the ground and 264 in the air.

The team’s next contest is Saturday, April 8, against the Minnesota Machine at Osseo Senior High School. Kickoff is scheduled for 5 p.m. Central.