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Girls Flag Football Debuts This Spring

Wed, 03/15/2023 - 18:46
“We’ve sometimes had as many as 35 at our weekend workouts this winter,” said Jonathan Augi, the head coach for East Hampton High’s new girls flag football program. 
Jack Graves

A girls flag football team is debuting this spring at East Hampton High School, which is particularly fitting because two East Hampton graduates, Teresa Schirrippa and Crystal Winter, have represented the United States in international flag football competition.

Winter, 37, a former Bonac and New York University track star who lives in Delray Beach, Fla., is on the present national team, which won a gold medal in Jerusalem in December, 2021, and a silver last July in the World Games in Birmingham, Ala. — the World Games being devoted to sports that have yet to be contested in the Olympics. Flag football is to debut at the Olympics in 2028.

The 38-year-old Schirrippa, who has played tackle football at a high level too, was on the silver-medal-winning U.S. women’s flag football teams in 2010 and 2014, and also played on the 2016 team. She was a three-sport athlete (soccer, basketball, and lacrosse) when at East Hampton.

During an interview with The Star last summer, Winter said she wasn’t surprised that East Hampton was planning fo field a girls squad. Flag football is “growing like wildfire — even my 4-year-old daughter plays. . . . N.A.I.A. colleges are giving out scholarships in flag football, and maybe N.C.A.A. schools will soon.”

“I love the speed of the game, it’s very quick,” Schirrippa has said. “Every player is faster than the next.”

Kathy Masterson, East Hampton High’s new athletic director, “made it happen,” Jonathan Augi, East Hampton’s head coach, said during a recent telephone conversation. Augi, a chemistry teacher at the high school and the East Hampton Middle School football team’s offensive coordinator, has Erin Gillott, a fellow high school chemistry teacher, as an assistant.

A student petition got the ball rolling, and Masterson took it from there. “We’ve sometimes had as many as 35 at our weekend workouts this winter,” said Augi, who will probably have to make cuts. When asked if the 7-on-7 sport would take away from other female athletic pursuits here, Augi agreed with Masterson, who has said that in a district this size “there are enough student-athletes to go around.”

“Actually,” he added, “most of those who have come out haven’t played a team sport before. . . . Flag football is opening up the door for them.”

There was an eight-team pilot girls flag football league in Suffolk last year; this spring about 20 teams are expected to play. The schedule for East Hampton, apparently the first high school on the South Fork to adopt the sport, includes games with William Floyd, Half Hollow Hills, Sachem East, Eastport-South Manor, Center Moriches, Ward Melville, Riverhead Charter, and Patchogue.

A wide receiver and cornerback on Bellport High School’s 2011 Long Island championship football team, Augi has played flag football too, with The Crush and The Hornets, Mid-Island teams in the Long Island Flag Football League.

Flag football is, he said, “largely a passing game, though there you can run with the ball too. . . . Speed and agility are important — it’s great for the cardiovascular system.”

The sport is no-contact at the high school level. There is no blocking per se, though screens could be set as in basketball, Augi said. Players wear two flags that dangle from their waists, “though it’s hard to grab them,” as was evident in the Super Bowl ad that featured a bobbing and weaving Vanita Crouch, the U.S. women’s team’s quarterback.

As for the approaching season, “We’ve got some work to do,” said the coach. “About three or four girls are trying out for quarterback.” The official season began on Monday; East Hampton’s first game will be on Friday, March 24, at William Floyd.

At the moment, he said, there is no junior varsity, though if the numbers eventually warranted, Augi said he would definitely propose that there be a jayvee.

The coach has spoken by telephone with both Schirrippa, who he thinks may live in another country now, and with Winter, who may speak to the team this season. “If she does,” said Masterson, “that would be awesome.”

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