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Level of play at Eagles Girls Flag Football Championship shows growth and excitement surrounding the sport

Archbishop Wood took home the Pennsylvania Championship with a 34-14 win over Gwynedd Mercy.
Archbishop Wood took home the Pennsylvania Championship with a 34-14 win over Gwynedd Mercy.

The NovaCare Complex was the epicenter of Girls Flag Football on Saturday, as the Eagles Girls Flag Football League crowned two new champions.

Archbishop Wood claimed the Pennsylvania Championship with dominant performances against Academy at Palumbo in the semifinal and Gwynedd Mercy in the final.

Kingsway Regional lifted the New Jersey trophy after defeating reigning champions Mastery Charter before narrowly taking down Egg Harbor Township in the championship game.

"They rose to the occasion," said Susan Massara, Kingsway Head Coach. "They knew what the moment was and they took it."

It was a spectacle to behold on the back fields of the NovaCare Complex where hundreds of parents, siblings, classmates, and fans packed the stands to watch the best players and teams in the region fight for state supremacy.

Wide receiver A.J. Brown, left tackle Jordan Mailata, and linebacker Ben VanSumeren served as honorary captains for the semifinals. Their involvement didn't stop there as they gave the players pep talks, took pictures with them, and stayed to cheer them on.

The talent on the field had the Eagles players' eyes locked onto the games at all times.

"The level of play from last year to this year, I'm blown away," said Mailata while watching Philadelphia Catholic League MVP Ava Renninger sling the football across the field for Archbishop Wood.

Mailata even called his wife, Niki, during halftime of the first semifinal games to rave about how good the girls were.

Brown brought his daughter, Jersee, to show her that girls can play the same game her dad does, and be as talented as the three-time Pro Bowl selection.

On Saturday, June 1st, the Archbishop Wood Vikings captured their first Eagles Girls Flag Football League Championship of Pennsylvania with a 34-14 win over Gwynedd Mercy, while Kingsway took home the New Jersey crown with a 13-6 triumph over Egg Harbor Township. Abington and Palumbo were the other two Pennsylvania semifinalists, while Absegami and Master Charter of Camden represented New Jersey. The 2024 Eagles Girls Flag Football League Championships were presented by NovaCare Rehabilitation, while the 2024 Eagles Girls Flag League was presented by Gatorade, Hilco, and Planet Fitness.

Quarterback Jalen Hurts had to catch a glimpse of the championship games before presenting the trophies to the winning schools.

"Wow, did you see that," exclaimed Hurts to a group of Eagles employees after a one-handed interception by Sophia Topakas in the end zone sealed the championship win for Archbishop Wood.

"It was an honor to be a part of this and witness this special event," Hurts said. "There has to be some respect put on the work that it takes to prepare to play any type of game. Just to see how dialed in and focused they were, how excited they were to play the game, that meant a lot.

"There is a lot of talent there. These young girls have the opportunity to play the game they love and that's what it's all about. I was a fan out there and I loved every moment of it."

The level of play and commitment to the game is attributed to the rapid growth and excitement surrounding the sport in the Mid-Atlantic Region.

Teams are now practicing and playing more, spending time scouting and watching film, and creating expansive playbooks and gameplans.

"We did a lot of gameplanning," Massara said. "We have super focused girls, so we watched a lot of film and were just ready for war."

Since the first Eagles Girls Flag game in the Spring of 2022, the league has grown from 16 teams to 92 across Philadelphia and New Jersey. The explosion in popularity has the sport on the verge of being officially sanctioned by the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association after the PIAA Board of Directors unanimously passed the first of three readings in May. Last weekend, a team of Philadelphia-area all-stars represented the Eagles in capturing the first girls flag football tournament at the historic Big 33 Football Classic.

The Eagles organization has played a major role in getting the sport to where it is today. From hosting championships, clinics, and jamborees to partnering with Operation Warm to create the FLY:FWD sports bra that was distributed to all participating players, a foundation was created to start something incredible.

The future of flag football is bright, especially for girls. Colleges at all levels are starting to introduce programs that will offer scholarships and flag football will become an Olympic sport in 2028 where players who made a name for themselves in the Eagles Girls Flag League may have the opportunity to represent their country on the world's biggest stage.

"I see the sport expanding and reaching heights that no one ever thought it would," Hurts said. "In time, it will be bigger than what it is now."

Jalen Hurts celebrates with Archbishop Wood following its championship win.
Jalen Hurts celebrates with Archbishop Wood following its championship win.