2006 was supposed to be the year it all came together for the Mass Mutiny, Jamaica Plain’s entry in the full-contact, 32-team National Women’s Football Association (NWFA). All the pieces were in place: returning veterans, key off-season acquisitions, ready-for-prime-time rookies, experienced coaches and a loose and cocky clubhouse attitude. The year 2006 ended up to be very good for the Mutiny but not quite up to preseason championship expectations.
Through five games the Mutiny were undefeated, outscoring opponents 168-7 and cruising toward valuable home-field advantage through the playoffs, when they blown off course by a June nor’easter. On the road against the Connecticut Crush, a team the Mutiny had buried 37-0 a few weeks earlier at English High School, the Mutiny surrendered a touchdown and extra point in the overtime of a rain-soaked mud-fest and lost 7-6.
Though they won their remaining two regular season games and drubbed the St. Louis Slam 42-14 in round two of the playoffs, the Mutiny were forced on the road to Oklahoma City where the season came to a disappointing end in the dustbowl heat when a last-minute drive came up short in a heartbreaking 21-16 semifinal loss to the Lightning.
Not satisfied with an overall 8-2 record and disturbed by a few questionable coaching decisions, Mutiny owner “Doc Sheri” Russell, a Beverly chiropractor, scrapped last year’s entire coaching staff and opted for National Football League pedigree, hiring former New England Patriots Derrick Beasley and Robert Perryman as head coach and offensive coordinator, along with Northeastern assistant Dan Ballou and veteran youth coach Rich Harrigan.
Russell didn’t name the new coaches until March, giving the Mutiny only a few chilly weeks for pre-season preparation. At a recent Tuesday night practice in arctic conditions at the YMCA Field on Roxbury’s MLK Boulevard, the new coaches were introducing new defensive packages and offensive sets just days before the season opener.
The players were unfazed by the late changes. As hard-hitting outside linebacker and co-captain Vicky Eddy noted after the workout, the Mutiny is a veteran team with excellent athletes who know how to adjust to new schemes and formations. Eddy, along with safety Donna Bruce and inside linebacker Molly Goodwin, praised the new coaches for their teaching skills and emphasis on technique. “We can’t allow ourselves to get lazy and just rely on our athletic ability,” she said.
Opening on the road against regional nemesis Connecticut on April 14, the Mutiny announced their return to form, overwhelming the Crush 34-0 behind Mia Brickhouse’s two rushing touchdowns and 217 all-purpose yards. Back in JP for their home opener a week later on a stunning spring evening before a large and vocal home crowd, the Mutiny blistered the Baltimore Burn 21-0, demonstrating what assistant coach Harrigan described as the new Mutiny mantra: solid tackling on defense and “get outside” on offense. The Mutiny returns to English High School on May 5 to face the Maine Freeze, followed by a rematch against Connecticut on May 12.
So could this be the year for the Mutiny? A weak division with one expansion team (Central Massachusetts) and another perennial bottom-feeder (Maine) means that this veteran team may not be pushed hard until the post-season. Once there, the path to the July 21 championship game in Pittsburgh will be eased by the departure of defending NWFA champions DC Divas to the rival International Women’s Football League (IWFL). The challenge for the battle-tested Mutiny players and their new coaches will be to stay focused and hungry until playoff time.