Girls’ Flag Football debuts with twin wins over YULA

Ariela Feitelberg, The Boiling Point

Ari Feuer, Deputy Editor-in-Chief,, and Eitan Rothman, Sports Editor

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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.

And in its second game a week later, Shalhevet defeated YULA again, 7-0, at Rancho Cienega Park.

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 first game and another one in the opening minutes of the second game.

In the May 30 contest, the girls had found themselves down 13-0 with only five minutes left to play. They pulled off an epic comeback.

“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 also 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 45-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 the Panthers ran out of opportunities to make plays and punted the ball back to the Firehawks.  To free up Sigal for a pass, Nicole coordinated a pump fake the just as Sigal slowed down 10 yards away, tricking the YULA players into expecting a short pass to Sigal. With the defense confused, Sigal blew by the Panthers, at which point Nicole lofted the ball over the defense.  Sigal caught the ball already past all defenders, so she just sprinted in for the tying touchdown.

“Sigal easily took it to the house to tie the score in what will go down in Shalhevet history as the pump fake heard ’round the world,” said Mr. Buckley.

With 45 second remaining, the Firehawks converted their extra point attempt, going up over the Panthers 14-13.  According to Mr. Buckley, Nicole and Sigal chose which play they wanted to run.

The Firehawk defense then had about half a minute – and several plays – left to protect their lead, all of which culminated in the Firehawk fans running on the field to celebrate the triumph.

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

In the first game, Shalhevet played without its seniors, who had been 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.   Jasmine also didn’t play in the second game.

Also, both teams played with a six-group team for both offense and defense instead of using the usual seven player teams.  YULA only had six players available, so Shalhevet agreed to play with a person less on the field, though the bigger Firehawk team had the ability to rest players throughout.

In the second game, June 6, Shalhevet’s three seniors – Ariella Joffe, Laura Melamed and Leila Miller – joined the team and the YULA team grew to nine girls.

The two victories were 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.

Among other things, they made the Flag Footballers became the only sports team in Firehawk history, at least as far as anyone can remember, with an undefeated season.

Mr. Buckley says a new season will begin next fall.

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