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WPIAL notebook: Girls flag football tops 100-team threshold, on road to being PIAA sport - FlagSpin

WPIAL notebook: Girls flag football tops 100-team threshold, on road to being PIAA sport


Wednesday, April 17, 2024 | 5:28 PM

Girls flag football is on track to become the next sanctioned high school sport in Pennsylvania.

A month after the PIAA crowned its first girls wrestling champions, PIAA executive director Bob Lombardi said girls flag football has reached the 100-team threshold needed to move forward as an emerging sport. Lombardi spoke to athletic directors Wednesday during the WPIAL annual meeting, held by video conference.

He said 103 schools statewide now sponsor the sport, but some hurdles remain.

For one, Lombardi said a large number of the current teams come from schools surrounding the state’s two biggest cities, where NFL franchises have sponsored girls leagues. The Steelers-backed league has a seven-week schedule ending with championship games May 19 at Carnegie Mellon.

“I know the NFL is very involved in this and behind it,” Lombardi said. “But we need to get some growth outside of the Pittsburgh and Philadelphia areas.”

Adopting a rulebook is another concern.

The National Federation of State High School Associations doesn’t have a rulebook for high school flag football, but Lombardi said it’s in the works.

“They’re going to write their own,” he said. “It won’t be ready for next school year, but it will be the following year.”

Lombardi said there is debate nationally about whether flag football teams should have five or seven players on the field. The NFHS could choose one version or write rules for both.

The PIAA rulebook for other sports is based on the NFHS.

“There are some other rulebooks out there,” Lombardi said, mentioning one written by the National Intramural and Recreational Sports Association. “Georgia has taken a blend of NIRSA and their own policies and wrote their own. We’ll probably keep an eye on some of our brother and sister state institutions to see what they’re doing.”

Lombardi said the PIAA girls wrestling championship held last month in Hershey was a success in part because of a PIAA emerging sports process that fosters growth and stability.

“We think we did it right,” he said. “We believe we have it rooted properly so it will expand and grow. I know in some states … they’re struggling a little bit. They tried to get off the ground a little too fast and didn’t fertilize it real well to have the opportunity to grow.

“I think we have that now, and I feel very positive about it going forward.”

Scholar-athlete awards

Twenty winners of the annual WPIAL James Collins Scholar-Athlete Award were revealed Wednesday. The WPIAL announced 10 male and 10 female athletes who will each receive $1,000 scholarships.

The boys winners were Pine-Richland’s Vasilios Balouris, Greensburg Central Catholic’s James Brewer, Avonworth’s Kai Carlson, Seneca Valley’s Isaiah Clerkley, Mt. Lebanon’s Ryan Frank, Butler’s Drew Griffith, North Allegheny’s Logan Kushner, Ringgold’s Ryan Pajak, Penn-Trafford’s Matthew Sarnowski and Indiana’s Charles Weber.

Winning the girls awards were Riverview’s Lola Abraham, Montour’s Marlo Cyanovich, Mars’ Addison Girdwood, Knoch’s Lindsey Greb, Avonworth’s Amelia Hardiman, South Park’s Katelyn Jackovic, Armstrong’s Emma Paul, Seneca Valley’s Lihini Ranaweera, North Catholic’s Alayna Rocco and Freeport’s Sydney Selker.

The recipients were selected from 146 nominees submitted by WPIAL schools.

WPIAL board election

Western Beaver athletic director John Rosa and Charleroi superintendent Ed Zelich are newcomers to the WPIAL board next school year. They were among the 11 elected by schools as at-large members of the board.

The others elected were Keystone Oaks’ Mark Elphinstone, Hempfield’s Tom Evans, Hampton’s Mike Gavlik, Peters Township’s Brian Geyer, Bethel Park’s Laura Grimm, Mt. Lebanon’s John Grogan, Seneca Valley’s Heather Lewis, Carlynton’s Nate Milsom and Brentwood’s Jason Olexa. All are athletic directors with the exception of Olexa, a school principal, and Evans, Hempfield’s event coordinator.

This will be a summer of change for the board after the retirement of WPIAL president Dave McBain, treasurer Michael Allison and member Scott Heinauer.

Chris Harlan is a TribLive reporter covering sports. He joined the Trib in 2009 after seven years as a reporter at the Beaver County Times. He can be reached at

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