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Moon wins second straight girls flag football title over North Allegheny

Moon wins second straight girls flag football title over North Allegheny

 


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Sunday May 19, 2024 | 7:54 PM


Given the vibrant nature of WPIAL football during the fall, it was no surprise that the third annual Girls Flag Football Championships, sponsored by the Pittsburgh Steelers, were just as exciting.

Athletes from 15 high schools showed off their skills on a beautiful, sun-drenched Sunday afternoon at Carnegie Mellon's Gesling Stadium.

“It's going to be competitive. It's going to be chippy. We have high-level athletes, people who have never played a sport before, so it's a great mix,” said Mike Marchinsky, director of the High School Flag Football League and Steelers senior manager of alumni relations and youth football.

“Girls play flag football in gym class, in their community and in rec leagues. They have failed to put on their school uniforms and represent their schools,” Marchinsky said. “This gives them the opportunity to do that.”

For the second year in a row, Moon (13-0) and North Allegheny (13-1) faced off in the championship game. Once again, No. 1 seed Moon emerged victorious 32-6.

“It feels great to go back-to-back. I knew we had the team that could do it, and that put a lot of pressure on us to repeat,” Moon coach Jason Russell said. “I'm very proud of the way our team responded, knowing they had the bull's eye on their back. They answered the call.”

Senior Serayah Leech said, “I am very proud of my team because we lost a lot of seniors from last year. A lot of girls, it's their first year, and they've worked their butts off.

Senior Gabby Larson intercepted three passes for Moon. They all stopped for a long drive to North Allegheny.

“I saw the balls in the air,” Larson said, referring to her interceptions. “I said, 'I've got to catch this, I've got to catch this for my team.' ”

Larson also showed great agility and elusiveness while running in two scores.

“I had a great time playing with my friends and teammates,” Larson said. “I've known them all for a long time. It's a great way to end senior year.”

Moon senior quarterback Charity Fisher, who took over early in the year after the starter went down with an injury, threw three touchdown passes: two to senior Leech and one to Sha Brown.

“It was nerve-wracking to intervene,” Fisher said. “You're the quarterback, the leader, but I was able to rely on my teammates and have them there to help and support me.”

Like Woodland Hills in the semifinals, North Allegheny couldn't stop Leech in the first half, as she outscored the NA secondary for both of her touchdowns.

“Serayah is the best player in Western PA,” Russell said. “She's been playing for so long. Her knowledge of the game and intensity is second to none.”

North Allegheny senior Maddie Hartung opened the scoring with a touchdown reception from Kyra Schmidt after an interception by sophomore Maddie Williams. That was all the Tigers could muster offensively.

Moon won the West Division with a 10-0 record, and North Allegheny won the North 10-0.

Both teams were surprised and excited as Steelers Hall-of-Famer and two-time Super Bowl champion Troy Polamalu presented their medals.

“That was crazy,” Larson said. “It was a great experience to shake his hand, even though I was so sweaty.”

In the semifinals, Moon defeated No. 4 seed Woodland Hills 26-6, behind a pair of touchdowns from Leech and Larson.

North Allegheny routed No. 3 Upper St. Clair 8-0. Williams caught a touchdown pass and the Tigers recorded a safety. Upper St. Clair had the ball with seconds left with a chance to tie the game before Tigers senior Rylee Johnson sealed the victory with an interception.

There were two major upsets in the first round as No. 12 Aliquippa defeated No. 5 Brashear 18-7, and No. 11 seed North Catholic defeated No. 6 Gateway 2-0. The Quips lost to Woodland Hills, and the Trojans took No. 3 Upper St. Clair to triple overtime, while the Panthers won 2-0.

“Incredible athleticism from all teams,” Marchinsky said. “Some teams scored more than 40 points and two games were 2-0 decisions. You have to see all types of skills and all types of football.”

With a third successful year of growth, the hope is to finally get the PIAA to designate girls soccer as a sport. A huge step in the right direction was taken on Wednesday when the PIAA voted unanimously on the first reading.

“I am grateful for what the Pittsburgh Steelers and the NFL are doing to grow the game. The more teams that sign up, the bigger this will become,” said Russell.

“This is a great experience. It feels like a family. It is unprecedented,” Fisher said.

Marchinsky said, “We have taken the first step toward making this a sanctioned sport by the PIAA. We've worked hard for three years, and Philadelphia is doing the same in the eastern half of the state. Hopefully it will be a great summer for us and we can receive good news.”

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