Flag On The Play: Girls Flag Football Just Miles from Pennsylvania
Tagged under: Beyond The Keystone, pfn
Sykotyk | May 1, 2023
On Sunday afternoon, a new form of football took its place in the high school landscape for six schools: Girls Flag Football. As other states have instituted it, the game has come to the borders of Pennsylvania.
The Southern Tier of New York’s Section 6 are playing their first year of varsity girls flag football. Six teams have arranged a Pilot Division, outside the umbrella of Section 6’s three divisions, to start play. The six teams are the Clymer/Sherman/Panama Wolfpack, Southwestern Trojans, Jamestown Red Raiders, Fredonia Hillbillies, Chautauqua Lake Thunderbirds, and Cassadaga Valley Cougars.
The Pilot Division is organized a bit like a barnstorming tour. The three weekly games are scheduled for Sundays all at one stadium. The first week was played this past Sunday at Southwestern’s Charles A. Lawson Field. Each week for the five-game season, the six squads will play at one of the host venues with turf.
On Sunday, the first game of the new season started between the host Southwestern Trojans and CSP Wolfpack. It was a cold, wet afternoon on the hills west of Jamestown overlooking the southern end of Chautauqua Lake.
A few hundred fans were on hand, huddled under umbrellas and blankets to fight the blowing rain. The players were braving the elements in jerseys and shorts. Ignoring the cold.
The game is a modified system that focuses on speed and misdirection. Blocking, tackling and field position are replaced with cuts, spins, and pure speed. The objective remains the same: score touchdowns. But the defenders aren’t diving to make highlight reel hits. They’re diving for little strips of fabric hanging on belts. Pull one of these, and the play ends.
Under the modified rules, everything is to limit contact. The players are not in pads. Helmets are replaced with braids and ponytails. Mouthguards and cleats are the only real holdovers. If the ball hits the ground, the ball is dead, and the play is over. Be it a fumble, bad snap or an incompletion. Points are scored via touchdown and PATs. As well as safeties. Extra points can be scored from the 3, 10, or 20 yard lines for 1, 2, or 3 points.
Most rules will be similar to the uninitiated. Just with a slant toward eliminating tackling. Blocking is simply obstructing the defender from reaching the ball carrier’s flags. But many of the common fouls remain. Illegal contact, such as tripping, pushing, clipping, holding, etc can still apply.
The game is fast, and possessions move quickly. The game starts with the coin flip. The first on offense starts at the 20 yard line. The dividing between the first and second zones. As opposed to ten yards for a first down, you must reach the next zone. On the modified 80-yard field, the zones are from the G to 20, 20 to 40, 40 to 20, and 20 to G. You have four downs to reach the next zone. Regardless where the set of downs start. A 1st down at the 36 would be 1st and 4, while a 5 yard advance would setup 1st and 19 at the 39. The goal is to both speed up the game and simplify the pomp found on the fall sidelines. The lines on the field are the arbiters, not a three man chain crew that regularly moonlights as fans volunteering for the position pregame.
Through the biting rain and wind, the game started with CSP and Southwestern trading possessions before the historic first score. Paige Grotto rumbled down the left side from midfield for the first score of the game and first of the CSP program’s history.
The PAT failed to convert. But, with a lead, CSP’s Wolfpack found the formula. Between the leadership of QB Abi White and the running of Grotto, Sarah Harvey and sophomore Janelle Burchanowski, CSP exploited a flat-footed Southwestern squad that spent a lot of time grasping at air than flags.
Burchanowski would go on to score two touchdowns on the ground. One in the first half and one in the second half. Bookending a Sarah Harvey score. Including the clincher from beyond midfield where she spun out of three would-be tacklers, inadvertantly taunting the last one as she jogged backwards before sprinting to the endzone with just 39 seconds left.
All four conversion attempts failed on the day for the green, black and gray. Southwestern’s only score on the day came late in the contest, trailing 18-0, #21 for the navy and red cut through the midde on a keeper and raced to the right side for a touchdown. The specially instituted 3-point conversion was attempted but was unsuccessful, leaving the Trojans trailing by two scores, 18-6. Before Burchanowski iced the game with her second touchdown.
CSP would hold on to win, 24-6 in the first of many future girls flag football games. Both teams are in action next Sunday as the games travel to Jamestown’s Strider Field. CSP takes on the host Jamestown Red Raiders at 3pm, while Southwestern takes on Cassadaga Valley immediately after at 5pm. Fredonia plays Chautauqua Lake at 7pm.
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