JOHN SARIANIDES | NEW ENGLAND FOOTBALL JOURNAL
Imagine if Malcolm Butler, Julian Edelman or Devin McCourty had to step in for Tom Brady and play quarterback during one of the Super Bowls against Seattle or Atlanta.
Now, imagine one of them earning Super Bowl MVP honors after being thrust into that position.
That’s basically what happened for the Boston Renegades on Sunday afternoon.
With Allison Cahill – the greatest women’s professional football player in history – out of action with an ankle injury, Boston swiss army knife Chanté Bonds (listed as a defensive back, safety, wide receiver, running back and kick returner) was the one under center when Boston took the field against the Minnesota Vixen inside Tom Benson Stadium at the Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio for the Women’s Football Alliance Pro National Championship game.
Bonds also started and won the conference title game a few weeks ago, but with the Renegades looking to complete a four-peat, the pressure was mounting. That didn’t seem to matter though, as Bonds ran for 127 yards and two touchdowns while the defense made some key plays at critical times. In the end, a 32-12 win and game MVP honors for Bonds meant a fourth-straight title for the franchise.
The Renegades have won  straight games dating back to April of 2018. The team’s last loss was a 44-41 defeat at the hands of Pittsburgh on the 21st of April that year. This season, Boston went 9-0 and outscored opponents 463-153. The win also moved head coach John Johnson’s record with the team to 52-8 all-time.
In the words of Bob Socci (who was tipping his cap to legend Gil Santos’ 2004 call at the time), “yes. it’s still a dynasty.”
“I think this is something we’ve all been waiting for since the beginning of the season,” Bonds said in her postgame interview on ESPN 2. “Every season is new, and we set out a goal to get to the national championship game and we did that. I visualized a lot about being here in this moment, so that vision came true, thankfully, to all my teammates and coaches staff.”
“We came in with a great game plan to make this happen today and I’m so proud of everybody here.”
It was business as usual early on for the Renegades, building a 20-0 halftime lead.
After receiving the opening kick off, Boston scored early on a Tytti Kuusinen 9-yard touchdown run less than five minutes in and Sarah Tully’s PAT made it 7-0. The Renegades’ offense struggled to get anything going on its other two possessions in the first quarter, but the defense forced to punt to keep the game at 7-0 after one.
The Boston defense faced its first big test two plays into the second when Minnesota had a 4th-&-7 in Renegades’ territory. While falling down, Megan McFadden hauled in a tipped ball for a pick to stop the drive at the 15. Nine plays later, Bonds ripped off a 39-yard touchdown run on third down and another Tully kick pushed the lead to 14-0.
After another quick three-and-out, Shannon Singletary had a huge punt return that set up the offense at the Minnesota 31. Ruth Matta needed two carries to get into the end zone and despite a missed PAT, Boston led 20-0 with a little over six minutes left in the half.
The Renegades appeared to get a strip and recovery on the next drive but the play was blown dead. The Vixen ended up moving back into threatening territory again, but Boston forced a turnover on downs to close out the half.
“It means everything, these ladies worked so hard and for them to get the recognition they’re getting nowadays, it’s amazing,” said Johnson.
The defenses were the story in the third. No points were scored, but two of the biggest moments of the game were coming.
The Vixen began their second drive of the third quarter with 8:40 remaining at the Minnesota 35. The 20-play excursion stretched into the fourth quarter, but thanks to some terribly timed penalties once getting into goal-to-go territory, Boston was able to force another turnover on downs.
A true Patriots-like, championship drive ensued. Kuusinen, Matta and Katie Falkowski – behind a monstrous effort from the line – took over. The Renegades moved 88-yards in 10 plays (all runs) and finished it when backup QB Heather Marini handed off to Falkowski and she tore off a 13-yard touchdown run. The kick was no good, but Boston’s lead was now 26-0 with 8:37 remaining.
A huge chunk play and a couple Boston penalties allowed Minnesota to quickly respond and make it 26-6, but three plays after Marini recovered an onside kick, Bonds danced in and out of tackles on her way to a 41-yard touchdown run to make it 32-6.
The Vixen refused to go quietly and added a late score, but a couple runs and a two kneel downs eventually iced it as Johnson was doused with the Gatorade right as the clock hit 00:00.
On Friday at Gillette Stadium prior to boarding the Patriots’ team plane, Johnson said he would much rather enjoy the flight home than the flight out to Ohio.
With some hardware accompanying the team back, that shouldn’t be too difficult.
“This is really a credit to not just what (the players) have done the last four of five years, but really what the ladies have done the last 20 or 30 years,” Johnson added. “The exposure that is rightfully overdue is awesome to see.
“A lot of people go into this, a lot of support folks, our families support us during this. I’m just grateful we were able to finish it.”