On Monday, less than 48 hours after leading the Mile High Blaze to a national title, Kimberly Santistevan was back to work. First there was an early-morning summer camp as a football coach at Douglas County High School, then off to her job as a pre-K teacher.
It was there, working with 4-year-olds, that the magnitude of quarterbacking the Blaze to the biggest feat in Colorado women’s tackle football history began to sink in.
“I’m still almost in disbelief it actually happened,” Santistevan said Monday. “But then I was playing catch with a bunch of the little girls. They were so excited about catching the football from me… and I was like , ‘Huh, I think that’s kind of what my bigger motive was.
“I did what I did because I want those girls to be excited to play sports as well. That’s the first time it set in what I had just accomplished.”
Santistevan threw three touchdown passes in the Blaze’s 21-20 victory over the Derby City Dynamite in the Women’s Football Alliance Division II national championship this past Saturday in Canton, Ohio. The victory made the Blaze the state’s first women’s tackle team to win a national title.
Two of Santistevan’s touchdown passes plus a pivotal two-point conversion went to wideout Smooth Lowery-Jones, a former DU basketball standout who is now a security analyst.
And the game-winning touchdown was hauled in by wideout Stephanie Skinner, an MMA fighter and Starbucks barista who epitomizes the heart and dedication of a semi-pro football team featuring players of all types of backgrounds and professions. Players range from teenagers to those in their mid-50s, who each pay $400 in annual dues while also footing the bill for their own travel.
“Being in Canton and playing on the (Tom Benson) Hall of Fame Field, it was an amazing atmosphere, and we love how Canton is supporting women’s football, so that’s a start for us to get more exposure nationally,” Lowery-Jones said. “Hopefully, all the NFL teams start supporting their local women’s football teams, like the Patriots do (with the Pro division champion Boston Renegades).”
While the Blaze’s win mandates they move up to the WFA’s Pro division next year — where the competition is going to be much stiffer — Mile High’s longtime owner Wyn Flato-Dominy is stepping back from the club. Flato-Dominy has served as the WFA’s director of operations for the past three years and is now taking on that role full-time with a focus on “the growth and betterment of women’s football in general.”
“I’m not walking away from the Blaze entirely — that’s my baby and I built it — but I did officially retire from the team and handed it over to (head coach and new owner) Rob Sandlin on Saturday night,” Flato-Dominy said. “The team presented me the game ball in the end zone after the game, and I let the girls know it was official, and everybody was crying.”
Flato-Dominy runs Team United, an international team consisting of WFA stars. She’ll now turn her attention to prepping that team — which will feature a handful of Blaze players, including 17-year-old linebacker Leilani Caamal and 40-year-old veteran defensive lineman Yolanda Searcy — for three games against championship Mexican teams in mid-September in Mexico City.
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