Lady Firehawks trounce YULA 20-0 in flag football rivalry game at LACES

By Clara Sandler, Staff Writer

An intense girls’ flag football game with two touchdowns by junior Nicole Miles led to a blow-out of the rival YULA Panthers 20-0 Oct. 12 on the Firehawks’ home field at LACES.

Coaches David Ouaknine and Tommy Cannon, who took over last year after the unexpected departure of founding team coach Christopher Buckley, led the team to success.

“Last year when we played YULA, we thought that we were going to come out there scoring touchdowns left and right,” said Nicole, who plays halfback and running back. “It was our first time playing with our new coaches and YULA kept scoring, and we were nervous and we were too confident.

“When I scored a touchdown this year, I thought the same thing — don’t be too confident. Just because you get one doesn’t mean you’re going to win.”

But win they did. The game had a defensive first half, but in the second half, the Shalhevet exploded with contributions from players on both defense and offense and from all grades.

In the first half, juniors Sarah Yadegari and Michelle Greenberg made great catches, and their classmate Rayna Wasserman caught an interception that prevented a touchdown by the Panthers. With all of this defensive action, YULA did not score — but neither did Shalhevet.

Just as the second half began, Nicole — who was celebrating her 16th birthday that day — scored a 30-yard touchdown to put the first points on the board. She ran the 30 yards at top speed and after she scored, her teammates affectionately began to sing “Happy Birthday.”

That started an onslaught of plays that eventually led to the win. The team missed the extra point for that touchdown, but it did not matter because YULA never managed to score.

The Panthers had hoped to do better.

“I watched last year’s game and learned from my mistakes and I expected it to be last year’s game,” said Panther quarterback Esther Dahan during an interview at halftime. “I was obviously nervous before the game started, but last year we were similar teams.”

Shalhevet sophomore Sarina Finn and freshman Talia Abel both made defensive stops that prevented YULA from running the field and getting very far. Then, defender Michelle Greenberg scored a defensive touchdown by recovering a fumble in the end zone.

“I saw that they left the snap, and I went for the ball and didn’t even realize that I was in the end-zone,” Michelle said. “When the referees called touchdown, I was so happy! I never thought I was going to get a touchdown, I’m on defense!”

Nicole scored the extra point, and the Firehawks were leading 13-0.

Senior and team co-captain Rachel Sentchuk kicked a touchback, which eventually led to a turnover to the Firehawks and another 15-yard run touchdown by Nicole Miles. Junior Alex Reich scored the extra point, and the score was 20-0.

Rachel had another touchback, and Talia nearly caught an interception, but the tail end of the game was not nearly as exciting and was quite uneventful.

The final score was 20-0 Shalhevet.

Shalhevet quarterback Lindsay Schacht credited Nicole’s touchdowns with the win.

“This game specifically we were trying a lot of new plays and there were a lot of complicated things that we were learning on the spot,” Lindsay said. “Once we clean up those plays and have these options, I think that we will do really well.”

Rachel Sentchuk and co-captain Michelle Hirschhorn said the best plays were Nicole’s touchdowns.

“I think that this was our most evenly matched game,” Rachel said. “We just have more experience than them.”

Michelle then talked about future games – In particular, the Loma Linda tournament coming up this weekend. Last year, the Lady Firehawks lost all their games at Loma Linda.

“If we play like this at Loma Linda then I think that we will have a chance of winning some games,” said Michelle.

The crowd was pleased with the win. There were just a few Panther supporters; most of the fans were rooting for the Firehawks. Shalhevet’s players got most excited when they saw Mr. Buckley among the spectators.

Coach Ouaknine attributed the win to teamwork, and both he and Coach Cannon looked ahead to Thursday, when the girls would be playing Loma Linda.

 “The team exceeded my expectations today,” Coach Cannon said. “Our birthday girl, Nicole, and Alex — specifically our defensive line, our defensive team in general — they played exceptionally well and I can’t wait for Thursday.”