The well-informed sports fan is aware of the San Diego Curse as it pertains to local sports teams. Our city has never had a World Series winner, a Super Bowl winner and the two NBA franchises that landed here, only lasted a short time. Dastardly things have happened to prevent our town from being another title town. Last year it was the reluctance of the Padres owner to spend a few extra bucks on a strong bat and then came the football season when two of the Chargers’ star players held out for more dough and cost the team an opportunity to make the Playoffs.
On Friday, February 18, Mayor Jerry Sanders honored the So Cal Scorpions, San Diego’s longest operating women’s professional football team. He invited the team to his downtown office to give them an official proclamation stating February 25, the date of the team’s incorporation in 2003, will now be known as So Cal Scorpions Day in San Diego.
The Mayor’s declaration may have come at an inopportune time for the Scorpions’ management team who are once again in rebuilding mode. Forty-two of the 46 players from last year’s So Cal Scorpions squad left the team to play for the San Diego Surge, another of the expansion teams joining the WFA (Women’s Football Alliance).
In other words, for a third time, Ann Bagala Paterno, the Scorpions team owner, is starting over from scratch with just one player from last year’s team. Since the average number of players on an WFA roster is 46, it appears she’s doing quite well in her recruiting efforts as there are now 58 women listed on the current roster. The league allows 50 to be listed on the active roster with additional players being assigned to a team’s practice squad.
When you think of all the semi-pro and pro-teams that have come and gone in San Diego, the So Cal Scorpions have been an anomaly. To name just a few of the sports franchises that failed in our town, we have the Spirit of the WUSA, the Riptide, the Sunfire, the Wild Fire, the Stingrays, the San Diego Surf Dogs, the Gulls and don’t forget the Clippers.
The Clippers had a respectable 43-39 record in the 1978-79 season, their first in San Diego after moving from Buffalo. They didn’t make the playoffs, but there was reason to be optimistic, especially when they signed San Diego native Bill Walton away from the Portland Trail Blazers. Walton was a big risk because he hadn’t played at all the previous season because of an injury.
The move totally backfired. The Clippers had to dismantle their team to get him and then Walton re-injured his foot after playing only 14 games. Walton missed the next two seasons as the team plunged to just 17 wins. He returned to play 88 games over the next two years, but the damage had been done and owner Donald Sterling moved his ball club to Los Angeles.
If we chronicle the Scorpion’s travails, we learn they began in late 2002 when several women met to finalize plans to have a women’s football team compete in the Women’s Professional Football League. They decided to call this team the So Cal Scorpions. After beginning play in 2003, the team advanced on until they won the National Championship by defeating the Houston Energy 14-7 in the 2007 finals.
In route to that championship, several Scorpion players set new league records. QB Melissa Gallegos threw for over 1,700 yards and 20 touchdowns and ran for 4 touchdowns. Rookie sensation Brittany Cotton led the wide-receiver corps with almost 700 yards receiving to join Scorpion veterans Isis Wagner, Elizabeth Quintard and Theresa Smith on the WPFL All Pro Team. RB Desiree Weimann rushed for over 1600 yards and 12 touchdowns and received the league’s MVP award. The same Desiree Weimann, who was only a few short years removed from neck surgery.
The O-Line was anchored by All Stars Katrina Walter, Lela Vaeao, Lindsay Hood, Christina Carrillo, and rookie left guard Hawa Wiley-Ross. The unit gave up under 10 sacks during the season for an offense that threw the ball 60% of the time.
Defensively, the Scorpions were led by Deuce Reyes who recorded an amazing 17 interceptions and defensive ends Cilena Mosley and Crystal Stokes who together recorded 24 sacks. Tackle Michelle Starks earned her first All Pro spot joining veteran Joniece Edwards. After switching from defensive end to linebacker, team captain Andrea Grant still earned an All Pro spot along with first timers, Tarrah Philpott and Wendy Hanlon. Priscilla Flores and Kalilah Lawson rounded out the Scorpion’s unprecedented 22 players chosen All Pro.
Shortly after the Scorpions won the title, the league office announced it was ceasing operations. The Scorpions had to revamp their operation and in 2010 received an invite to join the IWFL (Independent Women’s Football League) which at the time had 51 teams. As rookies in the league, they finished the regular season with a 6-2 mark and squeaked into the playoffs, losing in the first round to the eventual runner-up, the Sacramento Sirens.
That summer, 45 women from professional football teams around our nation were selected to represent the United States in the first ever International Federation of American Football (IFAF) competition for women in Stockholm, Sweden. Team USA, consisting of two players from the Scorpions, was victorious and brought home a gold medal after facing teams represented by Sweden, the host country, Austria, Finland, Germany and Canada.
During the off season, the IWFL became involved in a power struggle with the Women’s Football Alliance (WFA) and again the Scorpions were caught up in the tug of war. As mentioned above, the players from their 2010 team (42 in number) scrambled to remain on a team led by their former coach. For the last couple of months, Paterno and her loyal staff, plus the newly hired coaching staff led by head coach Loren Hasley have been working tirelessly to get their brand new team ready for the formidable season ahead. Can they do it again? Instead of outdistancing 42 teams, this new league, the Women’s Football Alliance has 60 teams.
Since San Diegans are known to be laid back, beneficiaries of the wonderful climate and most are transplants from elsewhere, they rarely get wrapped up in supporting a local team. If the Padres or Chargers are in first or last place, so be it. This devil may care attitude has had an impact on the performance of the teams representing our city. My suggestion is you get out there and show your support like Mayor Sanders did on Friday.
The Scorpions season kicks off April 2 with their first home game on April 16 at Balboa Stadium, the original home-field of the San Diego Chargers. For more info, visit their website www.socalscorpions.com.