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Irvington News
Rivertowns Sports

Irvington Flag Football Catching on with Players

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March 23, 2024

By Tom Pedulla—

Justin Myers was not sure what to expect when he became head coach of the Irvington-Bronxville girls’ flag football team.

He had never coached girls before. He has considerable experience with high school tackle football, with 11 players to a side and an emphasis on overpowering opponents at the line of scrimmage. Flag football, with seven girls to a side, eschews contact and relies instead on elusiveness and speed, making it a very different game.

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Myers and assistant Michael Peller also did not know how the girls might approach a sport that is unfamiliar to them. That concern quickly evaporated. The 25-player squad is all in.

“That’s been the nicest surprise, how much energy and enthusiasm they are bringing,” Myers said. “The girls are intense. They want to be coached and they want to learn football and it’s been a lot of fun.”

The girls bring varying levels of experience to the team. Football is nothing new to freshman Maddy Baumkirchner, for instance. While her brother, Owen, is a seventh-grader drawn to musical theater and is playing the role of the beast in “Beauty and the Beast,” she routinely sat beside her father, Michael, to watch football. Before and after kickoffs, they would step outside to throw around the ball.

“He treated me like a tomboy,” Baumkirchner said, “but I wouldn’t consider myself a tomboy.”

Others are still developing a feel for throwing and catching a football. “I think this is a good opportunity because football is usually considered a boys’ sport,” said freshman Dahlia Anenberg. “I think this is a good opportunity for girls who want to play football to try it.”

Myers described flag football as “kind of a combination of downfield passing and rugby running.”

It is not intended to be physical, but pursuit of the ballcarrier often becomes that way. “It can get kind of physical when we’re reaching for the flag,” said sophomore Sabrina Pasternak. “I would say there is more physical contact than other sports. Even though there is not actual tackling, we’re running on top of each other.”

Some might suspect that significant contact would lead at least some girls to head to softball or more traditional activities. So far, that has not been the case.

Asked if girls are typically leery of contact, Pasternak replied, “I don’t think most of us are. We wouldn’t be doing this if we were.”

She appreciates the need for every girl to do her job for the team to be successful. As in the case of tackle football, one player’s failure to fulfill an assignment often means that everything breaks down.

“There’s plenty that goes into a play or a completed pass. It’s not just one person,” Pasternak said. “It’s as a team that we have to succeed.”

Emma Friedman is the only player with experience on the Irvington portion of the roster. Senior Hannah Andrela made a good early impression with her throwing and running ability. Junior running back Scarlet Cuevas offers another scoring threat. Freshmen Baumkirchner, Paige Swift and Piper Keltz can be building blocks for the future.

Myers explained that baby steps must be taken in developing the team. “It’s been tough for us because we’re having to teach football without football terms,” he said. “Even the basic vernacular they’ve been kind of missing sometimes, so it’s been slow going.”

Learning the fundamentals is critical in all sports. Flag football is no different.

“We’re starting to see the whole picture,” Myers said, “but we’re focusing on individual techniques.”

The regular-season schedule will lead to sectional playoffs. For now, merely learning the basics will represent a victory in itself.



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