Throwing her fist into the air still clutching the flag she had just grabbed from the belt of her opponent, Megan Simpson yelped with elation and ran to the sidelines with her teammates.
The 4-foot, 6-inch eighth-grader weighs in at 65 pounds but for a while on Friday, she was a football star.
Her team, the Verity Ventures, was fighting it out on the hallowed field of Putnam Stadium with another squad of Verity girls, the Dream Team, in what is fast becoming a yearly tradition of powderpuff football.
The girls took the field early on a sun-lit afternoon to the cheers of the assembled student body, the Dream Team in hot pink T-shirts and the Ventures clad in fluorescent green.
Also cheering them on were two squads of elite cheerleaders, boys selected by the girls on the teams.
The boys embraced their roles, shaking pompons and wearing tutus in their teams’ colors.
“It’s the second year we’ve done this and they love it,” said physical education teacher Amy Prichard. “For these girls to play in Putnam Stadium, they’re rock stars.”
The girls in Prichard’s class have been practicing for more than a month, and for most of them it meant starting from absolute scratch, learning the rules of a game most of them had never played before. “They go to ball games but for most of them the games are about socialization. I want them to understand the sport,” Prichard said.
With the assistance of some boys on the eighth-grade team, she drilled them in basic plays. “It was very confusing at first because there are so many positions and plays. It’s a lot to keep in your memory,” Megan said.
“Most of them are girly girls and didn’t have a clue,” said her teammate Miranda Moore, who knows a bit about the game from her brother.
The cheerleaders took it as an honor to be chosen, said T.J. Love, who wore a matching pink headband with his tutu. “It makes me feel special that they’d want me.”
It’s all about school spirit, not just for the players and cheerleaders but the rest of the kids. “Especially the seventh-graders. They’ll see how much fun we have and they’ll want to do it,” he said.
The girls said they are hooked on football now, and if they had their way would play it as a regular sport. “It would be cool to have regular teams. It would be good for girls who aren’t in other sports and since it’s flags, it’s not so aggressive,” Megan said.
While adding girls’ football to the regular sports curriculum may not happen, the girls at least are learning that it’s not just for boys, according to Prichard. They will learn to be strong young women and reach beyond stereotyped roles.
“They’re giving 110 percent,” she said at halftime. “I’m proud of them. I want them to appreciate physical fitness.”
MIKE JAMES can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (606) 326-2652.