The Capital Pioneers found themselves in a proverbial fight to the finish Saturday in their ongoing bid to make the Women’s Football Alliance playoffs.
They were on the road. Trailing late. With players cramping or injured.
Somehow, though, the Salem-based tackle team rallied and pulled out a 22-14, two-overtime victory over the host Seattle Spartans.
That lifted the Pioneers to 5-0 with one game left in their regular season.
Capital will play host to the Portland Shockwave on Saturday at McNary High. Kickoff is 5:30 p.m.
With a win, the Pioneers would have their second straight 6-0 regular season and a 12-1 all-time record that includes last year’s playoff loss at the Arizona Outkast.
Win Saturday, and the Pioneers are likely back in the playoffs, and with an outside chance of playing host to the Outkast instead of having to travel to the Phoenix area again.
But lose Saturday, and a playoff spot goes to someone else.
The Pioneers played the Shockwave on April 30. Capital turned a close game into a 46-7 rout at Milwaukie’s Alder Creek Middle School. It was Portland’s first loss after opening the season with two wins. The Shockwave have since lost to visiting Seattle 33-22 and at the Nevada Storm 63-6.
Capital coach Mike Putnam expects a tough game Saturday and a battle from the more-established Portland club.
“This will be the fourth time we’ve played the Shockwave in two years, and I guarantee you they’re going to throw everything they have at us,” he said.
That’s what Seattle did last week, and “for a good chunk of the game, Seattle was the better team,” Putnam said.
The Pioneers opened the Spartans game with an eight-minute touchdown drive, “probably our best drive of the season,” Putnam said. “But after that, we struggled to put good plays back to back.”
With time running out in the fourth quarter, Seattle led 14-6.
The Pioneers drove into scoring territory, using runs by backs Alyse Gutierrez and Alyssa Flores and a big run-after-catch by WillieLee Missouri.
Quarterback Katie Girten hit receiver Holly Bratley in the corner of the end zone for the needed TD, and the Pioneers pulled even with a two-point conversion run.
The Pioneers got a defensive fumble recovery in the second overtime to escape with the victory.
“It took everything we had,” said Putnam, who left before the OT’s and let assistant coaches Tim Valdivieso, Jeron Tobar and Steve Polanski run the show as he accompanied tackle Katie Putnam, his daughter, to the hospital. She was evaluated for a possible back injury that occurred on the tying conversion. Katie Putnam was released and is doing much better, Mike Putnam said Sunday.
The physicality of the Seattle game was anticipated because it was that way when the teams met April 23, a 20-8 Capital win.
“They’re the best team we’ve played this year, and the most physical,” Putnam said. “A lot of credit goes to their players and coaches. They only have 14 or 15 players, so there’s something of a real iron man quality to them. They run the ball nine times out of 10 and play solid defense.
“Our players and coaches really had to show their leadership and character to get that win, and they did. It’s a special team.”