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Susan Wagner’s freshman phenom shines in season-opening showdown of girls’ flag football Goliaths - FlagSpin

Susan Wagner’s freshman phenom shines in season-opening showdown of girls’ flag football Goliaths

She’s a…freshman?

Susan Wagner senior quarterback Julia Catella flashed a new weapon in her arsenal when her team took the field on Friday night in a 20-6 victory over visiting Tottenville…and she unholstered it early.

Catella quickly unleashed the speeding bullet which came in the form of freshman wide receiver Olivia Rijo, who was the recipient of two TDs and also pulled down two interceptions in the triumph.

On the Falcons’ very first offensive play of the season, Rijo busted loose on a wheel route across the middle and up the left sideline, where she was met by a 30-yard floater courtesy of Catella for the game, and the season’s, first score.

From there, it was all Falcons — and all Rijo, who added a 20-yard score through the air later in the half. Catella, meanwhile, finished the half completing 7-of-13 attempts for 99 yards and three TDs. She also punched in a two-point conversion.


Susan Wagner senior QB Julia Catella fired three TDs in the first half of Friday’s victory. (Photos by Kara Buzga)

Despite limited practice time ahead of the abbreviated season, the senior-freshman duo has already developed great chemistry.

“To be honest, it’s kind of been on the fly,” said Rijo. “It wouldn’t be possible without great passes.”

“Liv runs the routes, I just put it up,” quipped Catella. “She’s fast, she’s got hands, and she knows where to be. I put it in a spot and I know she’s going to be there.”


Sandwiched between Rijo’s two scores was arguably the play of the game — which came when Carly O’Brien reeled in a one-handed, over-the-shoulder catch at the pylon from 28-yards out. Catella placed a beautiful ball where only her receiver could haul it in, which she did in Odell Beckham-esque fashion.


Susan Wagner’s Carly O’Brien was responsible for the play of the game on Friday. (Photos by Kara Buzga)

“I thought Julia had put too much into [the throw],” admitted SW coach Bashkim Pelinkovic. “When I looked down, I saw Carly making up ground and then the catch happened. Amazed.”

For Tottenville, quarterback Julianna Dimarzio threw for 154 yards and one score in defeat. Receivers Olivia Bonviso and Francesca Cusenza were responsible for the majority of the yardage, while the latter hauled in the lone score.


Francesca Cusenza hauled in Tottenville’s lone TD strike in defeat. (Photos by Kara Buzga)

Susan Wagner’s stout defense held the Pirates scoreless until late in the second half. Aside from Rijo’s two picks, Vivien Evangelista nabbed an interception, while Jaice Dorsey recorded two sacks. Pelinkovic also lauded the defensive efforts of O’Brien, Amina Muratovic, and Juliana Laquinta.

Friday’s matchup featured two of the league’s strongest programs — each boasting three league titles, accounting for six of the division’s eight crowns overall since the league’s inception.

Win, lose, or draw, Pelinkovic was just happy to be back on the field.

“The girls and I are ecstatic about the opportunity to step on the field and play the game that brings us all great joy,” he said. “Every game is important, we approach it the same way. Although we walked away with a win, we have a few things we need to work on.”

The Falcons will next get their chance when they visit New Dorp on May 19.

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Travis Burnett

Travis Burnett

A pioneer in the flag football community, Travis helped co-found the Flag Football World Championship Tour, FlagSpin and USA Flag. Featuring 15+ years of content creation for the sport of flag football, creating and managing the largest flag football tournaments on the planet, coaching experience at the youth and adult level as well as an active player with National and World Championship level experience.

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