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Hampton girls flag football thrives in 1st season - FlagSpin

Hampton girls flag football thrives in 1st season


Saturday, April 27, 2024 | 11:01 AM

When a group of Hampton girls desired a fun, low-stress spring sport, they found exactly what they were looking for.

With a little help from the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Hampton is a first-year club team in the high school girls flag football league, which is sponsored by the Steelers and the NFL.

“It’s really fun,” senior Allison Schepner said. “We are all good friends, and we are all excited to play a new sport together.”

The season began in early April and runs until mid-May, with the 7-on-7 games played on Sundays. Hampton split its first four, beating North Hills and Seneca Valley, and losing to North Allegheny and Shaler.

Hampton attracted a diverse collection of talent on its 12-girl roster, including multi-sport athletes from volleyball, track, basketball, tennis and soccer.

“Some of us didn’t want to do track or lacrosse, but we still wanted to play a (spring) sport,” said Schepner, a member of Hampton’s WPIAL champion girls volleyball team. “We all thought it would be a good idea. We were like, ‘Yeah. Why not?’ “

Girls flag football is one of the fastest-growing sports in Western Pennsylvania, increasing from six teams two years ago to 36 this spring.

Part of the attraction is the low price tag. The Steelers give a stipend — reportedly about $3,000 — to defray the cost of a coach, uniforms and transportation. The NFL club also provides footballs and flag belts.

The ball got rolling last winter when first-year Hampton athletic director Mike Gavlik started gauging interest among the school’s athletes in a spring flag football team.

“I heard about it through the grapevine,” senior Brooklyn Eastly said. “A couple of us that played volleyball were like, ‘That would be super cool.’ … It was all kind of spur of the moment.”

The school board approved the club team March 11 and tabbed co-head coaches, Debbie Hogan and Megan Kallock, about two weeks before the April 7 opener.

“It’s a great way to get these kids that play so many other competitive sports to just have some fun,” said Kallock, 23. “It’s been a blast. It’s very light-hearted, very fun. Not stressful, which is a great way to end the school year and go into summer.”

Hampton practices twice a week at Meadow Field in Hampton Community Park and will play all of its games on the road this spring.

The roster consists of seniors Schepner, Eastly, Emma Rick, Sterling Thomson, Kathleen Milon, Samantha Shaughnessy, LaNiya Ward and Grace Wolfe; juniors Eva Hughes and Alita Leone; and sophomores Lexus Natase and Jessica Keenan.

Nobody on the team, coaches included, had much experience with flag football. They found themselves poring over the rule book and learning on the run.

“We’re learning how to coach; they’re learning how to play,” said Kallock, who coaches seventh-grade basketball in the district. “But the competitive aspect hasn’t been a problem.”

The Hampton flag football team already has an Instagram page and the wins or losses aren’t a priority for the first-year program.

“It’s really cool that a bunch of my close friends are doing it. They made it fun, and the coaches are super cool,” Eastly said. “It was nice to bring this group of girls together to play a sport and have fun. It’s kind of a final hoorah, especially for us seniors.”

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