Game 2 – 4/8/17
Minnesota Vixen @ Minnesota Machine
It was a story nearly 10 years in the making, but the first chapter of crosstown contests between the two North Star State franchises in the Women’s Football Alliance finished with an exclamation point when the Minnesota Vixen handed the Minnesota Machine a 62-2 loss at Osseo High School.
Although the Machine began play in 2009, the two teams had never met on the field prior to this season due to the Vixen being in a different league. When the Vixen switched to the WFA in 2017, a collision was all but guaranteed. While both organizations were eager to start the rivalry with a victory, the Vixen’s larger roster and deeper talent were too much for the Machine in the end.
Both teams started out a bit tentative, trading punts on their first possessions. The Vixen got going on their next drive, however, starting on the Machine’s 38-yard line and scoring after an 8-yard run by workhorse running back Grace Cooper and a 30-yard catch and run by tight end Sam Barber. The ensuing PAT was blocked, and the Machine’s Sami Linberg picked up the loose ball and scampered the length of the field for a safety. That would end up being the only Machine score of the night.
The Vixen defense had the Machine pinned down on third and 14 on their own 27 when Erin “Tilly” Tilford ran back an interception for a touchdown. The Vixen looked to break the game wide open on their next drive, but after two consecutive first down runs by Cooper, a bad snap was recovered by the Machine. The Machine however, failed to capitalize and had to punt the ball away.
The next Vixen drive was all Cooper, who gained almost a third of her 142 total rushing yards on 5 carries over the next six plays. Barber caught a 9-yard touchdown and the Vixen took the lead 14-2 when Angela Griffin ran it in for a 2-point conversion.
The Vixen would score three more times on their way to a 42-2 lead at the half. The second half was played with running time. Another pick six by Erin “Tilly” Tilford in the third quarter, plus one more score each from Barber and Mikaila Soule, accounted for the final score of 62-2.
On defense, the Vixen held the Machine to negative yardage (1 yard on 18 passes and -60 rushing yards on 19 carries) and only 2 first downs. Outside linebackers Crystal Ninas and Connor Jo Lewis each had 4½ tackles. Anne Thiessen added another interception and the team finished with 14 tackles for loss, 3 sacks, 2 forced fumbles and 1 fumble recovery to go with Tilford’s two picks.
The Vixen had 358 yards of total offense, 203 rushing and 155 passing, including 17 first downs. Griffin rushed for a trio of 2-point conversions, and Katie Muller was good on 2 of 3 PATs. Kiersten Hansen was 6-of-13 for 122 yards passing with 4 touchdowns and no interceptions. Backup quarterback Kenzie Anderson completed 2 of 4 pass attempts for 33 yards and a touchdown. Cooper had 14 carries with a touchdown, and added 2 catches for 42 yards and a touchdown. Barber led all receivers with 4 catches for 85 yards and 4 touchdowns.
The Vixen now look forward to their home opener, a Division 1 matchup against the Kansas City Titans on April 29 at Simley High School. Kickoff is scheduled for 6 p.m. Central.
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.