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March 29, 2011 > Bandits gunning for championship

Bandits gunning for championship

By Giovanni Albanese Jr.
Photo by Bill Mancebo

There has been a tremendous amount of success for the Bay Area's professional sports of late. Of course, the San Francisco Giants of Major League Baseball top that list with their 2010 World Series championship. In the National Hockey League, the San Jose Sharks made a deep run before being eliminated in the conference finals to eventual champion Chicago. Now defunct FC Gold Pride of Women's Professional Soccer won the championship in 2010. And the San Jose Earthquakes made it to the conference finals before being eliminated in Major League Soccer.

Of all the successes, you still may be wondering where the football success is, and when it will come again. Well, that success did come, and in 2010, too. No, it wasn't the San Francisco 49ers nor the Oakland Raiders of the National Football League. It was, in fact, another football team that played its home game right in Fremont.

Bay Area Bandits, a women's professional football team formerly of the Independent Women's Football League, went all the way to the North American Championship before falling to the Montreal Blitz, 9-2, last July. It was the inaugural season for the Bandits, but they still didn't exceed their expectations.

"In our 2010 season we had one goal, from the first day of tryouts: to get to Texas for the championship game," said Bandits General Manager Neda Mohammadi. "We talked about it all year long, and never lost sight of that being our ultimate goal. Unfortunately, we were not able get anything going (that day in the championship)."

After the year the Bandits, a nonprofit organization currently working at obtaining a 501c3 Federal tax exemption status, jumped leagues from the IWFL to Women's Football Alliance. In the IWFL, the Bandits played in Tier II (the lesser of the two-tier league) and were clearly the class of the West Coast, riding their talent to the championship.

"We are excited to join the WFA in an effort to continue to promote and expand women's tackle football," said Mohammadi.

Moving to the WFA will be a spike in competition, but Mohammadi is still setting lofty goals.

"Losing the (IWFL) championship game was a heartbreaker, but it does not take away from the successful season we had in 2010," said the Bandits GM. "Every year our goal is the same: get to the playoff, then the championship. This year we will come home with a championship ring."

How exactly will they put together a team that will win a ring? Well, the Bandits have a number of returning players from an offensive unit that put upwards to 40 points a game last year. And, in addition to the veterans, the Bandits added a couple players to add to their already stingy defense.

"Quarterback Sandra Hernandez, linebacker-fullback LaStar Brown, center Jackie Taylor and running back Dakura Smith are all returning as seasoned veterans," said Mohammadi. "We are also very excited about our two new recruits from Michigan: linebacker Donnell Block and defensive end Jodi Howe ... These two veterans are going to be key contributors to our defense."

Both Block and Howe are recruits acquired this off season from the Midwest, formerly with the West Michigan Mayhem of WFA. While Block and Howe will help out on defense, Mohammadi thinks the passing game, if it evolves (the offense mainly going through Brown and Smith last year), they will have a successful year, stating, "If we can open up our passing game, we will be untouchable."

Along with the move to the WFA, the Bandits moved its home field from Tak Fudenna Memorial Stadium in Fremont to Contra Costa College. Attendance was mediocre in 2010 and while Mohammadi doesn't know what attendance will be, she hopes the move will help in the growth of a fan base.

"It's hard to say what our attendance is going to be this year," said Mohammadi. "We are hopeful that moving our home games to Contra Costa College will allow more of our San Francisco and North Bay fans to come support us at our home games."

Bandits open the season on April 2 in Los Angeles against American Conference North Pacific Division foe Amazons. Their home opener will be April 9 against the Portland Fighting Fillies.

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