Title game loss can’t tarnish ‘outstanding’ season for Detroit Dark Angels

By Matt Schoch
The Detroit News
Keith Thomas

The Detroit Dark Angels came so far this season.

The next goal is to go one step further.

The Detroit Dark Angels had their best season in team history come to an end Saturday, losing 34-0 to the St. Louis Slam, which wrapped up its third Women’s Football Alliance Division 2 title in four seasons at the Colorado School of Mines in Golden, Colo.

Detroit finished the season at 8-3 and as the National Conference champion in its second playoff berth for the team, which formed in 2010.

“Outstanding job this year,” coach Keith Thomas said in a phone call on Sunday. “An outstanding amount of pride. This is a hold-your-heads-high kind of moment for this season.”

Thomas said the Slam (11-0) were bigger, stronger and more experienced than the Dark Angels, who were trying to bring a women’s football title back to Michigan for the first time since the Detroit Demolition won in 2007.

That was when the Demolition were on top of the women’s football world, a place Thomas and the Dark Angels hope to get back to soon.

On Saturday, the Dark Angels were hampered by an early knee injury to running back Tatyhana Pauling, who tried to fight through but was rendered ineffective.

More: Dark Angels bond, revive championship spirit in Detroit women's football

That allowed the Slam to control the clock and keep the Dark Angels defense on the field in 90-degree temperatures.

“Our defense did, despite the score, a spectacular job,” Thomas said. “When you lose your workhorse within the first two series of the game, now it’s going to limit your ability to get a first down, let alone score.

“I think if I didn’t have such a great defense, they might have scored 80 points on us. They fought. The defense just kept us in the game, and I can’t say enough about our defense and our defensive staff.”

The Dark Angels came home Sunday a decorated bunch, as Pauling, linebacker Diana Lenaway, defensive end Mikayla Hilton and free safety Clarissa Tullis were named first-team All-Americans; wide receiver Kaci Cunningham, fullback Lisa Gomes and cornerback Danyelle Kerse made the second team; and offensive lineman Vanessa Romero and defensive end Ashley Andrews were third-teamers.

“We had a really good season," offensive tackle Kay Wilson said. "We’re really close as a family. It was my rookie year, but it was an amazing experience.

“It was very emotional (Saturday). It was pretty tough. They were definitely big, they were definitely older, more seasoned players. They were very strong.”

The Dark Angels had an improbable fourth quarter comeback against Pittsburgh in the conference championship game on the road, overcoming a 14-point deficit to win 34-33 in overtime.

On social media, the players were already starting the rallying cry for next season: #FTWTour2020. It’s meaning isn’t quite suitable for a family newspaper, but they’ll also be going “for the win.”

“We’ll be back,” Thomas said. “The future is bright. There’s a lot of positivity despite the fact that we lost. We’re determined.

“But nothing but great things to say about the 2019 team.”

Matt Schoch is a freelance writer.