The temperature was soaring in the 90s and felt more like 110 degrees on Crenshaw High’s scorching all-weather turf field.
It was the first Coliseum League girls’ flag football game, and the smartest player was Crenshaw linebacker Cheyenne Hickman, who found the only shade on the sideline. She sat under a desk wearing a pink mouthpiece and pink gloves while waiting to return to the game against Hawkins.
She was smiling, too.
One striking difference between 11-man football and girls’ seven-on-seven football is clear: Girls aren’t afraid to express themselves.
“My feet are burning. I’m ready to go,” said one.
“I hurt my pinkie when I hit her,” said another.
“Is the game over?” another asked after an interception for a touchdown.
Crenshaw coach Jim McElroy, a former UCLA receiver who coached 11-man football at Gardena, had to deal with a player wanting to walk off the field in the middle of the game because one of her teammates criticized her for missing an assignment.
“I need a bunch of chill pills,” he said.
The Cougars earned an 18-0 victory over Hawkins on Monday afternoon, when Crenshaw’s three touchdowns all came on interceptions.
There is an adjustment among those used to coaching 11-man football and transitioning to girls’ flag football.
“They’re learning and we’re trying to teach them about a sisterhood,” McElroy said.
Players on Crenshaw have been assigned to do research to find out something about one of their teammates. It’s an attempt to improve the bonding process to draw players closer.
Crenshaw is one of the more experienced flag football teams, having played last year in a beta league. But there’s a group of new players blending in during the inaugural CIF-sanctioned season.
McElroy has put in some sophisticated plays. There was a reverse and fake handoffs. Of course, the players have to remember the plays. There’s no difference between boys and girls in that aspect of football. Both forget plays, McElroy said.
Hawkins pulled off the play of the game. Crenshaw had the ball on the one-yard line. The Cougars’ quarterback tried to make an underhand pass for the touchdown. It was intercepted.
Learning the new rules will take time for fans, players and coaches. The game is played on a field 80 yards long. There are no punts. On fourth down, if a team doesn’t want to go for a first down, they just tell the official they’re punting and the ball is placed on the other team’s 20. Quarterbacks are allowed to run once every four downs. There are two 20-minute running halves with the clock stopped in the final two minutes of each.
No one should doubt the toughness of the players. Despite the heat, players for both teams kept battling.
Afterward, Crenshaw’s Talita Robinson, who returned an interception for a touchdown, eagerly wanted to discuss the play.
“I got my first pick six,” she said. “It was amazing.”
The City Section will be holding its inaugural flag football championship in two divisions in November. There are 54 schools with teams.
Crenshaw should be even stronger when two top players finish completing physicals to become eligible. Most City Section teams will begin their schedules in September. Other sections around the state holding championships are Oakland, Sac-Joaquin, San Diego and San Francisco.
Crenshaw played a second game against Washington Prep and won 35-0.
Remember the player with pink gloves who found the only shade?
She returned an interception for a touchdown. Smart player.