Ravens relish IWFL championship to cap perfect 11-0 season

Call them what you want — the Atlanta Ravens or The Team Formerly Known as the Xplosion. But whatever the moniker, make sure there's one thing you don't leave out:

IWFL World Champions.

Having recovered from a celebration that lasted until 5 in the morning Sunday, the Ravens sit atop the Independent Women's Football League today after defeating the California Quake 24-22 in the championship game in Round Rock, Texas.

"It was a nail-biter but we stuck to our game plan," said Charmaine Chin, who earned Most Valuable Player honors rushing for a touchdown and more than 100 yards. "It was an awesome game from beginning to end."

The Ravens, who play their home games at Tara Stadium, ran the table in the women's semipro league, finishing 11-0.

Dana Marsall threw a touchdown pass to Angela Rowe to give the Ravens their first lead. Chin's touchdown gave Atlanta the lead for good and Tammy Nelson's quarterback sneak in the second half helped put the game away.

The championship is the second for the franchise. In 2006, they won it as the Atlanta Xplosion, but new owner David Irons wanted a name that fit in better with other Atlanta professional teams. Since most are nicknamed after birds — Hawks, Falcons, even the recent dearly departed Thrashers — the Xplosion became the Ravens.

"We are Atlanta's championship team," Chin said. "Not to knock the Falcons, but we got it done."

Under the on-field guidance of former North Clayton star Mareno Philyaw, their coach, the team spent this transitional season answering to both names.

That's likely to change next season, along with a big chunk of the roster. Several players are expected to go out on top and retire. Chin, a former track star at Georgia Tech says she's "absolutely" retiring.

But the championship is particularly gratifying to Chin, who retired once before then came back this season.

"To come back out of retirement and have the year I had, and to be able to share this with this special group, it's a testament to a great team effort," Chin said. "We can't be prouder."

Mashonda Gilmore, the Ravens Vice-President/Team Delegate, indicated next season might be a rebuilding year, Chin is confident in the players she leaves behind.

"We're restarting the legacy," Chin said. "It's very sweet that we were able to do this, and now we're passing the torch on and I think we're going to build something with these young, talented players."

Chin will consider coaching because she knows how tough staying retired is.

"It's a sport that doesn't let go of you, so if you can contribute in any shape, fashion or form, you do that," she said. Still, she's not sure she will.

But there's one thing of which she's certain.

"This is a memory that's going to stick with us for the rest of our lives," Chin said.