Back in Joe Torres’ days in Baltimore building up the football program at St. Francis Academy, the halftimes of homecoming games were special.
That’s when it was the girls’ turn to march onto the field, dividing into juniors against seniors to play a game — “powder puff” football, as it’s called. The boys, meanwhile, would take to the sideline, diverting mid-game fuel into cheerleading and coaching.
Torres, now King/Drew’s football coach, envisions just the same when his school’s team begins play in the Los Angeles Girls Flag Football League of Champions this winter. So count on the King/Drew boys being there to support on Saturdays.
“I think everyone … is excited about the adventures we’ll take in football, period,” Torres said of King/Drew. “This has always been a basketball school.”
Co-sponsored by the Rams and Chargers and involving programs from both the Southern and City Sections, the league is expanding to 16 teams from its original eight last season.
The schools participating — deep breath — are Crenshaw High, Gardena Serra High, Inglewood, Hamilton, Hawthorne, King/Drew, Lawndale, Lawndale Leuzinger, Long Beach Poly, Inglewood Morningside, Redondo Union (last season’s champion), Rise Kohyang, Santee, Sierra Vista, Playa del Rey St. Bernard and YULA High.
The league hosted a jersey unveiling Thursday night at SoFi Stadium, where girls posed for photos with new Nike-provided jerseys and frolicked across the Rams’ home turf.
“The atmosphere was amazing,” said Zac Emde, the Chargers’ director of football development.
After the CIF Southern Section voted to approve flag football as a sport coming this fall, the League of Champions will serve as further exposure for the game ahead of the state’s vote in February.
For two weeks, Long Beach Poly football head coach Stephen Barbee has already been hosting 7 a.m. practices in preparation for the league. Each team will have 20 players — but Barbee said he’s had about 60-65 show up to morning sessions.
“Excited to see their excitement in the sport that I love,” Barbee said.
After hosting some school-driven girls’ flag football play in the spring, Barbee said, the range of interested athletes in the league has been widespread. Volleyball players. Softball. Basketball. Water polo. Lacrosse. Rugby.
They’re flowing in from every direction — a preview of the engagement and talent to come next fall, providing the state’s approval.
“It’s great to see young women being pioneers in this sport,” Barbee said.