With two touchdowns in the last five minutes of play, Firehawks defeat YULA in first-ever girls flag football game

BP Photo by Ariela Feitelberg

Eitan Rothman, Sports Editor

Playing its first-ever game in a new sport for Shalhevet, the Girls Flag Football team staged a come-from-behind victory to defeat the YULA Panthers 14 – 13 at Santa Monica Airport Park May 30.

Coached by math and science teacher Mr. Christopher Buckley, the girls were led by freshman quarterback Nicole Feder and freshman wide receiver Sigal Spitzer, who together made two touchdowns in the final minutes of the game.

Earlier, the girls had found themselves down 13-0 with only five minutes left to play. The Firehawks pulled off an epic comeback after failing to score the entire game until that time.

“We needed to build some confidence, because we were down 13-0,” said Sigal Spitzer. “Buckley told me that I needed to make a big catch… I ran long and caught a high ball, with YULA senior Aliza Muller about to pull the flag off my belt. I made it to the end zone to [tie the game].”

The first touchdown was scored when Sigal called for the ball after running a post pattern, going out a few yards and cutting at a 30-degree angle towards the middle of the end zone.

“I wanted to get this for Shalhevet because I knew it would be great to have the first football team beat YULA,” said Nicole Feder. “The defense did a good job and we were able to come back. It was a tough battle but with Buckley coaching we were able to do a great job. “It was the best to beat YULA after coming back from a 13-0 deficit.”

The second touchdown came after a turnover on downs when the Panthers ran out of opportunities to make plays and punted the ball back to the Firehawks. Sigal again caught the touchdown pass on a streak pattern in which she sprinted straight for the end zone.

The Firehawks converted their extra point attempt and won the game.

“I’m incredibly proud of all the girls they fought as hard as they could until the very last play,” said Coach Chris Buckley. “We won because we never gave up.”

The girls will play against YULA again on June 6, this time with the help of their three seniors – Ariella Joffe, Laura Melamed and Leila Miller – who were in Israel.

But YULA’s team was also handicapped, because its star player, freshman Jasmine Peled, was hospitalized just before the game and didn’t play at all. Also, YULA played with a single six-group team for both offense and defense.

Shalhevet matched that with only six players on the field at a time instead of seven. With 12 players available, even with some overlap (a few girls playing both defense and offense), that meant some defense could rest when the offensive team was on the field, and vice versa.

The victory was especially sweet after painful losses suffered by the Firehawks to the Panthers in basketball earlier this year.  Both girls and boys teams were defeated, not only in Los Angeles but again at the Red Sarachek Tournament in New York in March.

To celebrate, Rabbi Segal ordered Krispy Kreme donuts for the entire student body the day after the game. The day after that, he held an impromptu lunchtime ceremony in the foyer to present Mr. Buckley with a black fedora, similar to one worn by legendary Green Bay Packers football coach Vince Lombardi.