Sunday Afternoon Lights

North Allegheny becomes one of five schools to receive a grant from the Steelers for a girls’ flag football pilot program.


photo by Jess Daninhirsch

Serving as an experimental season, this year’s team is the first step to establishing girls’ flag football as a varsity sport at North Allegheny.

Kara Mihm, Co-Editor-in-Chief

Since the end of North Allegheny’s football season in November, the term “Friday Night Lights” has receded into deep hibernation. But in its temporary absence, the potential for a new phrase has hit the market. Thanks to the Pittsburgh Steelers, who are celebrating the 50th anniversary of Title IX and honoring women’s history for more than just the 31 days in March, a pilot program for a girls’ flag football league has been offered to five local high schools, including North Allegheny.

Prepare yourself for “Sunday Afternoon Lights.”

“When I began teaching physical education in 2009, I went to [Athletic Director] Mr. Bozzuto to [ask] about a girls’ flag football team. Unfortunately, due to a large number of girls who had injured themselves [playing flag football] years prior, he wouldn’t let it pass,” coach Michelle Ruiz told The Uproar. “But two years later, with a crowded document filled with rules, stipulations, and a liability waiver in tow, I asked again. This time, his answer was different.”

Concerned by the possibility that the activity could ruin an athlete’s varsity season, Bozzuto was understandably serious about ensuring the safety of his players. The instant an injury was revealed to have been caused by girls’ flag football, the club would be pulled.

Now, fast forward through a series of successful middle school games and the Steelers’ announcement of a grant, Bozzuto has selected Ruiz as one of the two official coaches of the new team. 

“I never realized that this opportunity to grow the program was on his radar. To say I am excited is an understatement,” Ruiz said.

The Steelers’ grant involves five schools in the WPIAL region: North Allegheny, West Allegheny, Shaler, Moon, and Ambridge. The grant provides each team with twenty-five Nike-sponsored uniforms, flag belts, and footballs. 

It is our hope that Pennsylvania will eventually join the seven states currently running girls’ flag football and make it an official PIAA sport.”

— Bob Bozzuto, NA Athletic Director

Steelers President Art Rooney II aims for the program to promote a newfound love for a sport that has historically been male-dominated.

“Flag Football is an exciting game, and already very popular in community programs, so it is great to provide high school girls with an opportunity to keep playing and represent their high school,” Rooney stated in an official press release.

Girls’ flag football has witnessed a dramatic push since 2016, when a concerted effort was made by the NFL to introduce partnerships and clubs that advocate for participation throughout the United States. At the high school level, seven states including Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Florida, Georgia, New York, and Nevada have officially named girls’ flag football as an official sport.

“We are excited to add girls’ flag football as one of our co-curricular programs this spring.  We are looking forward to our inaugural season.  It is our hope that Pennsylvania will eventually join the seven states currently running Girls’ Flag Football and make it an official PIAA sport,” Bozzuto said.

Besides the addition of a flag belt, the rules of the game will not exactly mirror those of NA’s fall football team. Consisting of only a 50-yard playing area, four teams will be battling on one standard football field at once. Engaging the girls in a 5v5 fashion, the smaller field size will foster a quicker pace to the game.

“After playing in the Powderpuff game for TigerThon in the fall, I am relieved that it will only be half the field. I think that this change will make for a quicker game, resulting in a better display of the player’s skills,” NA junior player Sophia Huwar commented.

Since this year’s season is abbreviated and will be treated as more of a club sport, practices will be held twice a week with a single game on Sunday. The time-commitment consists of only a few weeks of training until the top two teams face off in a championship at Heinz Field.

For more information or to join NA’s newly girls’ flag football team, contact Coach Ruiz at [email protected].