I promised I’d tell about the powder puff football game. Last fall the junior girls were pitted against the senior girls, and it was pre-determined that the seniors would win. That’s only fair, my daughter explained, because next year when she was a senior she’d get to win.
“How do they manage to guarantee the seniors will win?” I asked.
“Oh, the refs give the juniors a bunch of extra penalties and stuff,” she said.
At first my husband tried to get out of going to the game. “I don’t want to watch a bunch of little girls playing flag football,” he said with disgust. But my friend Gina had a bunch of us over for dinner and we went straight to the game, so he came along.
While we were scrunched in the stands trying to keep warm, waiting forever for the game to begin, one of the dads called out, “Did anyone bring a boda bag?” We all laughed (and secretly wished someone had yelled, “Over here!”)
My daughter’s prom date, Johnny, was the junior’s head coach – chosen by the school’s football coach. It looked like he had gotten eight or nine of his friends as assistants. They were all wearing the forest green t-shirts with “Juniors Rule” scrawled in sloppy white paint on the front that the girls had made for them.
When I compared the size of the junior girls lined up next to the seniors, and saw all the talent on the junior team, I thought, those poor seniors don’t stand a chance.
The juniors got the ball first. My daughter’s job was to call everyone into the huddle. They plotted for a few seconds, then the two teams faced each other on the line and squatted down just like real football players except they weren’t wearing shoulder pads. The junior’s center picked up the football and stood up, saying, “Hey, they gave us the wrong ball. Look at this, it’s the wrong ball.” She turned and handed it to the quarterback.
The quarterback hollered, “Yeah, hey this is the wrong ball.” She looked at Johnny on the sideline and bellowed, “Hey, coach, you gave us the wrong ball.” She started walking toward him, calling out, “We can’t play with this ball, this isn’t the right one, there’s something wrong with this ball.” Everyone else just stood there, waiting for someone to fix the screw up. I thought, this is going to be one long game.
The quarterback was almost to the sideline, still ranting about the ball, when Johnny yelled, “RUN!” She took off flying down the field, chased by a befuddled pack of seniors, and scored a touchdown on the very first play of the game.
You’ve never seen such carrying on. Girls were bouncing up and down like they were on a trampoline, ponytails flying in the air, hugging and flailing their arms and squealing with delight.
“Was that legal?” I shouted above the cheering parents.
“Johnny found it online,” Gina shouted back. “He ran it by the athletic director first to make sure it was legal, and he said it was.”
The seniors sulked and accused the juniors of cheating, and even though the athletic director/referee squelched their grumbling, it’s probably the reason the game got a little rough. It was supposed to be flag football, but juniors were getting tackled, especially Gina’s daughter, Julia, who was like a cheetah on the field. She has broken school records in track. The quarterback kept handing the ball to her, and she’d run toward the sideline, gaining several yards before literally getting knocked out of bounds.
Once my daughter ran off the field crying and holding the splinted finger she’d broken in gymnastics. Another time Julia limped off, crying, after being tackled. And several girls stayed down on the field after plays. When it happened, both teams got down on one knee, but since it would take awhile for the injured girl to get up, some of the juniors started whispering. If it went on for a few seconds my daughter belted out, “SHUT UP!” loud enough for all of us in the stands to hear. She later told me that Johnny thanked her and finally told her he’d call the game if the girls did it again.
The seniors scored, then the juniors scored, then the seniors scored again and it was a tie game with a couple of minutes left on the clock. My daughter rushed two times in a row and snatched the senior quarterback’s flag, which led to them turning the ball over when they missed getting a first down.
A couple of quick plays got the juniors in field goal position with two seconds left on the clock. To make sure the juniors didn’t score and win the game, the referee put the ball way off to the side of the field so it couldn’t possibly go through the goal posts. Nobody could make such a kick.
Aleeta, the six foot tall soccer queen, got in position to kick. We were screaming in the stands, blowing frosty steam and jumping up and down. Aleeta ran up to the ball and gave it a good solid soccer kick at an impossible angle, and it flew like a homing pigeon right through the middle of the goal posts to win the game.
The whole junior class raced out on the field like kids on the last day of school - jumping, screaming, and waving their arms. Parents went down on the field too, though we were totally ignored for the longest time until our daughters came tearing out of the massive hive of kids and nearly knocked us down with excited hugs, “WE WON! WE WON! CAN YOU BELIEVE IT, WE WON!!!!”
“Did you like the game, daddy?” my daughter asked when she caught her breath.
“Best game I’ve seen in a long time. Beats most college games I’ve seen,” he said.
The next day my daughter was still pumped up. She was so hoarse from screaming that some words didn’t come out. She showed me all her bruises, and there were plenty because she had played both offense and defense. “This one senior hit me right in the face,” she said, “and she hit Hannah, too. And they were pulling girls’ hair from behind when we were running with the ball. I’ve got this giant bruise on my thigh, and feel this one here on my arm, it’s sticking up. And one of them grabbed my splinted finger and twisted it. They were really mean, mom.”
After school on Monday my daughter reported that the seniors mumbled the word, “Cheaters,” a lot. “They need to just let it go,” she said. “It wasn’t our fault we won. We just did our best.”
The juniors had a secret weapon. It was Johnny who won the game for them – with that incredible first play. That’s the kind of guy he is. Smart and clever and sweet.