By Nick Giannino | The Salem News
SALEM MASS. – Aug 4, 2021 – First they took the ride of a lifetime.
Then they had the time of their lives while making history.
The Boston Renegades recently won their third straight Women’s Football Alliance (WFA) championship, toppling the Minnesota Vixen, 42-26, in the championship game in Canton, Ohio. The squad, which features Erin Truex and Odessa O’Neil of Salem, went unbeaten during the regular season, dominating their foes every step of the way, and capped off another memorable campaign with the title triumph. They became the first team in league annals to win three consecutive crowns.
To reach Canton, Ohio — home of the Pro Football Hall of Fame — the Renegades rode in luxury when New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft offered to fly them out on his organization’s private team plane. Kraft also met with team members before the flight, something Truex and O’Neil said they’d never forget.
“It was unbelievable. I can’t even put it all into words; just amazing,” said O’Neil, a rookie on this year’s team. “That Thursday (when they flew out) through Sunday was such a blur. Meeting Mr. Kraft, being on the field at Gillette Stadium, the plane ride and then the Hall of Fame, all in one day. Game weekend is usually pretty intense anyway, but there were so many other layers to this experience. Just a surreal experience for me.”
O’Neil joined the Renegades for the 2020 season before it was wiped out due to COVID-19. She played cornerback and was a perfect fit from the jump.
Truex, who’s been a member of the team since 2016, plays right tackle on the Renegades’ offensive line. She said this year’s win was just as sweet — if not sweeter — than the other two she was a part of in 2018 (a 42-18 win over the Los Angeles Warriors) and 2019 (52-24 over the Cali War).
This season, the Renegades outscored their opponents by an eye-popping 354-12 combined score leading up to the title game, including a 70-0 win over DC and three other games in which they scored at least 62 points. While Minnesota certainly put up some points against them in the title game, Truex said the final outcome was never in doubt as far as she was concerned.
“It’s pretty funny,” said Truex. “If you look at our schedule this season, nobody really scored much against us. So a lot of people look at (the championship) game and think, ‘Oh, wow, it was close’, but that wasn’t the feeling we had. We were really comfortable running a no-huddle offense, and the first quarter was just us trying to figure out what they were going to show us from a defensive standpoint. Once we started to move the offense and see the end zone, we felt pretty comfortable.”
As for getting the chance to meet Kraft and fly on the Patriots’ team plane, Truex couldn’t have been happier for the exposure and recognition her hard working group had received.
“It’s pretty remarkable. I remember in 2019 for our (title) run, we were just excited when the Patriots re-tweeted us or liked something of ours on social media,” she explained. “We were hoping for a shout out or something, but the engagement we got and the way they stepped up like that in such a major way was awesome. (Kraft) stayed with the team, chatted with us, took photos … he really spent a considerable amount of time talking to us and learning more about us as individuals. It was really remarkable for someone with such a busy schedule.”
The memorable sendoff certainly left the team in good spirits as they headed out to Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium in Ohio finish the job.
Quarterback Allison Cahill, the WFA’s MVP, completed 21-of-34 passes for 218 yards, three passing touchdowns and a rushing touchdown in the clinching victory. Adrienne Smith, Ruth Matta and Emily Beinecke caught the touchdowns, while Matta and Chante Bonds also scored on the ground. Boston led 21-6 at the half before Minnesota cut the deficit to seven early in the third, only to see the Renegades pull away for good with a 2-yard rush to paydirt from Bonds on their ensuing possession.
After hoisting their third trophy in as many tries, each Renegade signed the game ball — and it will remain in the Pro Football Hall of Fame forever. In addition, Cahill’s team jersey was also enshrined in Canton.
“This year started a five-year partnership with the Pro Football Hall of Fame; the game used to be played on a neutral site from a host team,” explained Truex. “But now we’ll play all the championship games there for the next five years at a huge NFL caliber stadium. It’s honestly one of the coolest places I’ve ever seen, and to leave our mark like that is just incredible.”
Peabody High grad Briannah Gallo, who has been on the team for six of its championships, also played a key role in this year’s title run.
The Renegades, who compete in the top of three divisions in the WFA, will gear up for a more normal season next year with more regular season games and less restrictions overall. Considering the talent level, camaraderie and overall commitment from the group, there’s no reason to believe they can’t nail down a fourth straight title in 2022.
For now, they can continue to celebrate a top-tier accomplishment most athletes can only dream of.
“It’s just such an honor to be able to play by all these women,” said O’Neil. “We’re all a part of the team; the WFA is decades old and the Renegades (formerly the Boston Militia) has transformed over the years, but it’s still 20 years of football. So to be on that field and have our football and Cahill’s jersey going into the Hall of Fame, it was just unbelievable. It’s the very reason we go out there and play; we play for girls and making a name for it and proving that we belong here.
“It’s all very overwhelming; I’m just so happy and so proud to be a part of it.”