By Rich Whittington
(Baldwin Park) How many times have we heard fans exclaiming from the stands at football games, “Girls Can’t Play Football” or “This is a MAN’S game. You need to find something else!” Well, ladies, CIF finally got the message. Women’s Flag Football is now a bonified part of the sports landscape, and it is taking off in a grand fashion.
Flag football is a bit different than the game that is played on Friday nights. First, there is no blocking. You read that correctly, blocking will earn you a 15-yard penalty. Next, you are only allowed to run one time during each set of downs. Other differences include there being seven players on the field for each team, the field dimensions being 30-40 yards wide by 50-80 yards long, and the time consisting of two 20-minute running halves. This sport encourages a solid passing attack, and that is what you can expect to see during the upcoming games.
The sport is big in the Bay area. Additionally, it has started off well in our beach cities. Finally, it has made its way to the Mid-Valley. With all the hype, this was something that I had to see for myself. So, I did some research, found out that some of our local schools were currently fielding teams, and off I went for a quick look/see.
I contacted the Athletic Director at Sierra Vista High School, Ms. Robyn Garcia, who was more than enthusiastic about me visiting the school. Ms. Garcia put me in touch with Coach Luis Verduzco, who provided me with the location and time that the team practiced. We agreed on a time for my visit, which was scheduled for Wednesday, September 6, 2023, at 4:00 PM.
I showed up a few minutes early. The players were beginning to stretch, as the Coach and I spoke for a couple of minutes. Coach Verduzco stated that he had been working with these girls for three years and stated that “Some of these girls had never played a sport in High School, but they have found a home here. That’s what I love about this sport.”
As the practice continued, I did not see a group of girls that were out to “play football”. I saw a group of dedicated athletes, working hard to master their craft, so that they might have success in their upcoming competitions. The passes were crisp, the catches were true, and the attitude made me believe that success was within their grasp. If dedication and hard work are truly the keys to success, then these young women will have to find a very large trophy case to display the awards that they will undoubtedly be bringing back to the Sierra Vista campus.
A quick word with some of the athletes gave me some insight into why these young women were attracted to this sport. Senior Itzel Escobar was more than willing to answer my questions. When asked why she was playing flag football, she replied, “It caught my attention, and it “Felt like another side of me.” When I asked if she enjoyed it, Itzel gave the sport high praise, stating that she “enjoys it as much as soccer.”
Sisters Maya and Sandra Cervantez had similar responses to my questions. Maya, a sophomore, listed her reason for playing as simply, “I needed a sport.” She continued by saying that she, “Didn’t like it a first, but she likes it now.” Maya also said that her favorite part of the game is, “when the other team is hard.” Sandra, a junior, listed her reasons for playing as, “conditioning for soccer, and opportunity to meet the coaches.” Sandra finished by saying that she, “likes it a lot”, but that she, “Still likes soccer better.”
Junior Lotus Wu has a similar story about how she got involved with flag football. Lotus stated, “When I got to high school, I was having trouble finding a sport.” She heard about the tryouts, and decided, “this is for me.” When asked if she liked playing flag football, Lotus provided a resounding response, “I love it.”
Rounding out the roster for Sierra Vista are Nathalie Arellano, Christina Contreras, Dalila Heredia, Taylor Kadolph, Breanna Manriquez, Mia Miramontes, Damaris Peralta, Kristina Ramirez, Alyssa Romero, Natasha Sinvongsa, Natalia Tovar, and Elizabeth Vargas.
The “Lady Dons” play their first game at home on Wednesday, September 20, 2023, at 3:45 PM. Their opponent will be the “Lady Eagles” from South El Monte. Come on out and take a look. I think that most football fans will like what they see.