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Liberty Belles Survive Scare From Speed Advance to Conference Championship

Written by: on Sunday, July 12th, 2009. Follow Willie McGonigle on Twitter.

PHILADELPHIA: For the first 56:52 of their First Round Women’s Football Alliance Playoff game it looked has if the Northeast Division Champions Philadelphia Liberty Belles and the Wild Card Champion Indiana Speed were evenly matched but then with one play the momentum shifted from the Speed to the Belles and the end result was the Belles leaving Frankford Charger Field with their perfect record intact and a 19-9 victory.
Sitting with a 9-7 lead and sustaining a drive down to Belles 13 yard line, the visiting Speed looked poised to put the game out of reach for the Belles but then Erika Johnson fumbled the ball on the Belles 1 yard line. Once the pile was unraveled, Jeanette Hibbs came up with the ball for the Belles. “I didn’t even see the ball come out I turned around and the ball is the air, I drove over a girl to get it” is what Hibbs would say about the fumble recovery. Belles’s Head Coach Bill Sytsma said ” I was thinking that was the game right there I new if we got it we had a shot.”
On the ensuing Belles’ drive it looked as if the Speed’s tough defense had one final stop in them forcing the Belles’ to a fourth and two from their own 28 with such a critical moment the Belles turned the ball to their playmaker in RB Marirose Roach who found a hole in the Speed’s defense then let hers speed do the rest has she raced 72 yards for the touchdown. The two-point conversion would fail giving the Belles the 13-9 lead.
On the ensuing drive the Speed made it down to Belles 49 yard when Dana Miller would been intercepted by Marica Stinney who would race 65 yards the other way for the touchdown giving the Belles 19-9 lead.
Roach would ensure the victory on the ensuing drive when she intercepted Miller, Miller would finish the game with 157 yards on 5 of 17 passing 1 TD and 3 Ints.
The first fifth teen minutes appeared has if a defensive battle would ensue has both teams traded three and outs. The Speed had the chance to get a lead but Laura Diggle 34 yard field goal attempt fell short.
The Speed would get board first when Miller connected with Virginia Hicks for the 44-yard touchdown. The extra point would be no good giving the Speed 6-0 lead.
The Belles would respond behind the running of Danika “D Train” Hopkins and Roach. Roach would show her athleticism has she cut back across the field for a 6-yard touchdown. Hibbs would add the extra point giving the Belles the 7-6 lead. Hopkins would finish the game with 67 yards on 15 carries while Roach would finish with 118 yards.
The Speed had one more opportunity to take the lead into locker room at half but Diggle’s attempt at a 26-yard field goal would be block by Sheemea Carr preserving the 7-6 halftime lead for the Belles.

In the third quarter the Belles held offense seen plenty on time on the field has the Speed only ran seven plays. The Belles however would fail to capitalize. Miller would connect with Kiva Thomas for a 56 yard gaining putting the Speed at the Belles 32 yard line. Four plays later Molly McAfee would nail a 37-yard field goal giving the Speed the 9-7 lead.

Up next for the Liberty Belles is the National Conference Championship against the Western Michigan Mayhem who defeated the Columbus Comets 41-12 Saturday night. The Belles- Mayhem kickoff is schedule for July 25 at 7 pm in Michigan.

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