An historic day for the Kansas Wesleyan women’s flag football teams featured two games with polar opposite scripts but identical outcomes.
The Coyotes’ first victory in program history came with no angst or suspense as they steamrolled Cottey College 55-0 at Graves Family Sports Complex.
The second victory, four hours later, wasn’t decided until the final few minutes when they scored two late touchdowns and downed Midland 19-12.
KWU improved to 2-2 in the program’s inaugural season.
“It’s definitely sweet,” KWU coach Mike Famiglietti said, his hair wet from the Gatorade his players doused him with after the second game. “We told the ladies the last two weeks ‘in reality we’re 0-2 but we have to do our job. We have to take care of the first game then take care of the second.'”
“It’s great,” said quarterback Sabrina Saldate (JR/Las Vegas, Nev.), who threw two touchdown passes the final 5:10 of the game against Midland and had five scoring passes against Cottey. “The first game we got the numbers in and gave everyone an idea of what it feels like to win. And winning second game we showed a lot of fight so it’s a great thing.”
“We’ve been working hard, and all of our hard work finally paid off,” said Marisa Rubino (FR/West Palm Beach, Fla.), who caught a touchdown pass from Saldate for the third score and played a pivotal role in the go-ahead touchdown against Midland. “We deserved this in our house.”
KWU trailed Midland 12-7 at halftime – the lone touchdown Ja’Daa Wilson (FR/Crawfordville, Fla.)’s 32-yard interception return late in the first quarter.
Still leading 12-7 Midland drove to the KWU 22-yard in the fourth quarter but the Coyotes on downs.
Ten plays later, on fourth down from the Midland 25, Saldate found Rubino for a 17-yard gain. Sensing her flag was about to be pulled Rubino alertly lateraled the ball to Brianna Hernandez-Silva (JR/Las Vegas, Nev.), who sprinted the final eight yards into the end zone for the go-ahead score with 5:10 remaining.
“It was crazy,” Rubino said. “I got the ball and saw ‘B’ (Hernandez-Silva) and just decided to lateral it to her. I knew she was there, and I just trusted it.”
“That’s something we’ve been working to add to our game, a little bit more of the laterals,” Famiglietti said. “But having that awareness of the field is something she just has a player that brings her to an elite level. And Ja’Daa and ‘B’ always being ready to have the ball tossed their way is something that’s almost irreplaceable for any team.
“Any sort of play you can pitch the ball and you have to be ready for the ball if you don’t have it regardless of what position you are.”
Midland (3-4) drove to the KWU 27 in the final minute on its next possession but Saldate intercepted a Mikaela Nunez pass. Two plays later Saldate hit Rubino with a 44-yard touchdown pass with 17 seconds left to seal the deal.
The final five minutes were vindication for Saldate, who had had thrown five interceptions previously.
“We really preach mental toughness and our QBs have really developed it,” Famiglietti said. “We threw an interception the first play of the year, but we’ve taken a huge step forward in our passing game.
“In a game where you pass as much as flag football with the talent as equal as it is you’re going to throw some interceptions. We preach a one-play-at-a-time attitude, that’s what I’ve always believed as a coach.”
KWU benefitted defensively from the return Carlee Becker (SR/Henderson, Nev.) in the second half, who suffered an injury against Cottey.
“Having Carlee step in really helped us,” Famiglietti said. “She an elite (pass) rusher, I think she found her sport in flag football.”
Rubino also had a huge game against Cottey, catching two touchdown passes and returning an interception 50 yards for a score.
KWU led 22-0 after one quarter as Saldate threw touchdown passes of 27 yards to Wilson, 38 yards to Rubino, ran 23 yards for a score and the Coyotes notched a safety on a bad snap on a punt play that sailed into the end zone.
Hernandez-Silva ran 42 yards for a touchdown and Hernandez-Silva threw a four-yard TD pass to Ghariana Green (FR/Dunedin, Fla.) that made it 35-0 at halftime.
Saldate and Rubino hooked up for a 20-yard touchdown pass-catch early in the third quarter that made it 42-0.
Green returned an interception eight yards for a touchdown and Rubino had her pick-six 2:10 later. KWU intercepted three Cottey passes in the game and the Comets deepest penetration into Coyote territory was the 26-yard line.
KWU plays Cottey on March 28 in Nevada, Mo., before competing in the Mid-Season Tournament on April 2-3 in Fremont, Neb.